Ajrakhpur or How to "Move" an entire village?!

The region of Kutch in northwestern India was hit by a severe earthquake in 2001.

Besides the immense loss of life and infrastructure, the earthquake has upset the entire ecosystem, like the village of Dhamadka whose underground water reserves reduced to nothing overnight.

The Khatri community, whose name means “one who fills or changes colours,” practised the art of textile block-printing with the locally available natural dyes and water from the Dhamadka, the river that gave their village its name. This craft consumes a lot of water; as a result of the earthquake, the residents of Dhamadka therefore not only lost their source of water but their source of income as well.

During the post earthquake rehabilitation work, dozens of families from Dhamadka, with the help of the local government and various NGOs, decided to simply "move" the village to continue to practice this art of the block-printing called 'Ajrakh'. Thus was born the village of Ajrakhpur.

When we visited, we were received by Abdul, who hails from a Muslim family that has been practicing block-printing for centuries. He is in his thirties, with a jovial smile and speaks English!(which is pretty rare in the region) Along with his brother, he left Dhamadka a few years ago to settle down in Ajrakhpur and continue to practice the craft. 

Abdul mostly uses natural pigments: indigo, henna, turmeric, pomegranate, iron oxide ...This is a work of a true chemist. With patience and precision, each piece of tissue goes through an average of fifteen steps before arriving at the finished product: printing blocks, boiling, washing, soaking, new printing ... .

The printing is done by hand with hand carved wooden blocks. Several different blocks are used to give the characteristic repeated patterning. 

 

Discover the process in images in the gallery below, this is an impressive work and one of true elegance!

Block-printing for Abdul is not only a source of income but a passion as well. He continues to explore the possibility of natural pigments by experimenting with several different dyes and processes. He employs a dozen people from surrounding villages and sells these tissues all over India and even abroad. Water is always a problem for this technique but the craftsmen of the village are working with a local NGO to establish a system for treating and recycling the colored water. Stay tuned!

It is by this "mélange" of ancestral know-how and innovation in the design and coloring techniques that the beauty of tissues from Ajrakhpur is now recognized internationally.If by chance you happen to own a fabric like this, not necessarily perfectly regular, then it probably comes from here!

PS: you will find fabric in the market that may look similar but the patterns are more regular. This regularity and perfection indicates that they may have been produced industrially. Industrial production is centralized, consumes a lot of water, largely uses chemical dyes and employs only very few people who have no other "skill" than that of "controlling a machine". . 

so you have the choice ... I'll let you decide!