This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun, written by Arundhati Bhande.

We belong to a society that is forgetting to appreciate the handicrafts that have been passed down to us over generations. Moreover, we are forgetting to appreciate the artists who keep the fire burning.  One such community of artists are the copper artisans from Pune, Maharashtra- the Tambat Ali Workers.

They are a community that settled in Pune around 400 years ago; the Peshwas being their first patrons. The community that was once the talk of the town has been sidelined with the advent of stainless steel and plastic utensils.

Aware of the fact that the pots they get a few hundred rupees for are being sold for thousands in the market, they have no option but to continue with their art, desperately hoping that none of the future generations have to suffer.

Meet the workers of Tambat Ali and get to know their everyday struggles.

1. “When I was younger, my foot and thighs would hurt a lot while hammering the design on the piece and using the foot for support. Now I have become used to it. I can keep my foot still for half an hour while I am finishing a piece, this ensures that the consistency is maintained.” Ganesh Karde was 18 when he started working with copper, it has been 25 years since.

 

2. “I have a degree in Bachelors of Commerce, the constant sound of hammering has affected my hearing, but this is the only job I can do the best. I wear gloves while working because I have clammy hands and the moisture may leave black marks on the copper.” Ajit Pimpale is from the third and the last generation of copper workers from his family.

 

3. “I don’t work after 5 PM because the light isn’t good enough, the bulb is of little help. Some of us still work after sundown but I can’t.”

 

This photo story has been created by Arundhati Bhande. She is among the 20 students a.k.a heritage enthusiasts from The Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication who participated in the Make Heritage Fun! event held on 26th March 2017, in Pune, India.


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Image Source: www.anokhi.com/museum

The two-story pink sandstone haveli in the dusty lanes of Amber is usually easy to miss. Many of the locals know this as Chanwar Palkiwalaon ki Haveli and not Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, eight miles outside Jaipur where women clad in the most colourful of sarees suspend their chat to wave at you.  The museum focuses on contemporary fabric ranging from innovative designs created by talented artisans to traditional outfits still worn in select regions today, albeit in dwindling numbers. A focused selection of historic textiles provides a context for a further understanding of block printing.

image source: http://josephinewilson.com/?p=417

Image Source: http://josephinewilson.com/?p=417

The one of its kind museum is an endeavour to preserve the community of artisans of 500-year-old block printing in Rajasthan. It was started by Anokhi, a clothing line selling block printed garments in stores across in India. The company was the brainchild of a British woman who married an Indian and moved to Jaipur in 1970, Faith Singh worked with local craftsmen to create contemporary prints on textiles that have become so popular in India and abroad. It was Ms Singh’s daughter-in- law Rachel Bracken-Singh who restored the dilapidated 17th- century mansion which once belonged to the palanquin bearers of the royals and turned it into a museum. This preservation project earned a UNESCO award for ‘Cultural Heritage Conservation’ in 2000. The old but well-maintained building is a cool relief from the desert heat.

 Large boards are put up in the open courtyard which explain the lengthy process of hand block printing. It all begins with the design to be printed on the textile. Once finalised—often floral, paisley or geometric—they are carved by hand onto wooden blocks which have been soaked in oil overnight and cleaned. These blocks are then used to print the pattern onto fabrics using natural vegetable dyes like indigo, pomegranate rind and turmeric in vibrant blues, reds and greens. 

 

 

 

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Image Source: www.google.com

 

 

Inside Anokhi

More than a hundred garments and blocks are on permanent display inside alcoves and galleries across two floors. There are ethnic designs and patterns  and also Western clothes in traditional prints, like knee-length dresses in shades of red and russet. On the roof-top terrace, a few craftsmen sit with their tools, ready to demonstrate their work to interested visitors. The museum also offers a 2-day course in block printing and wood carving to the enthusiasts. The museum shop carries a selection of hand-crafted merchandise which includes limited edition textiles, clothing, furnishings, jewellery, books and cards.

Anokhi is trying to preserve the dying craft which is overpowered by the more efficient and more economical machine-printing process damaging the livelihood of the artisans and threatening to extinguish an important craft. But it has a modern approach too. The team is always looking for new craftsmen and techniques to develop new garments in the main workshop on the outskirts of Jaipur. They have worked with a British designer to re-interpret William Morris’s prints, made costumes inspired by the Russian theatre, and worked their patterns into contemporary fashion—all of which are showcased in temporary exhibitions.

 

 

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Image Source: www.anokhi.com/museum

 

Visit them in Jaipur:
Chanwar Palkiwalon ki Haveli (Anokhi Haveli)
Kheri Gate, Amber, Jaipur
Tel:- 91 – 141 2530226 / 2531267

 

Museum Working Hours

  • Tuesday – Saturday : 10:30am – 5:00pm
  • Sunday : 11:00am – 4:30pm

Together with garments – Indian and Western in design – home textiles, sarongs and accessories, Anokhi offers a diverse and colourful selection of products in its 27 outlets in major cities of India. Anokhi doesn’t offer e-commerce.

Instagram @anokhijaipur

Facebook @AnokhiIndia

Here are some insights, with Ms. Rachel Bracken-Singh, the museum’s director:

Are there any festivals/events/Hand Printing workshops in the museum?

The museum offers regular works throughout the year. These are usually against request and range from individuals and small groups of enthusiasts to large school groups –from within India as well as visiting from abroad. School groups, college groups, design student groups – we tend to tweak the workshops to suit the particular need. While most workshops involve block printing we also offer block carving workshops. Throughout the day, the onsite printers and carvers demonstrate their skills and offer interactive sessions with visitors as they walk around.

 

What excites the visitors the most about your museum?

The response to the museum and what people enjoy most varies quite a bit. While most people love to try their own hand at block printing and also block carving, we find that there is a very clear appreciation for the overall quality of the experience from start to finish, in all the spaces at the museum. A great deal of attention has been given to clear and concise information and good visuals, and great care is taken in maintaining a high standard of care for the various striking and interesting textiles as well as tools, techniques, etc. The building is well worth a visit for that alone!! Visitors leave feeling that they have had a very positive, informative and satisfying and holistic experience.

 

How is the museum funded?

It is funded by Anokhi – we do not take outside financial support. The small shop there and museum publications go part way to supporting some of the costs.

 

What would you say to those looking forward to visit the museum?

Above all, I would recommend that any visitors coming to the museum should give as much time as they can to enjoy a complete experience – a full morning or an afternoon. The opportunity is there to fully absorb and appreciate one of India’s most beloved indigenous crafts,  set in a beautifully restored 16th century haveli. Interacting with the craftspeople and well-informed staff, and then enjoying a cup of desi chai in a traditional clay pot with a view of Amber’s enduring heritage is something to be savoured.