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

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Ralli

The term Gypsies of a Lahore has come to describe people of different regions of Punjab/Pakistan and settled in the city Lahore with more opportunities for survival.

“Gypsies are known as Nomadic people”

In Lahore they almost live in every corner but the biggest community of gypsies are on the way of the famous Grand Trunk Road crossing Shahdara Bridge along the historically significant River Ravi.

Gypsies:

These people are

  • politically marginalized
  • largely alienated
  • deprived of the basic rights

Problems:

  • social rights
  • earning opportunities
  • illiterate
  • they have got at least 8-10 children

Bitter Reality:

  • begging is the main source of income
  • only two individuals have basic education among the Shahdara community
  • the more the kids, the more the earning hand

Occupation:(most of the families lives on the daily wages=labourers)

  • begging
  • drum beating
  • monkey show
  • selling balloons
  • selling fish, chicken, tortoise outside schools
  • clay toys

They are different from nomadic gypsy tribes who are constantly on move, never choosing to settle in any place, they instead do not travel to other parts of the country. they only leave when government launches an operation and forces them to leave.

They have strong roots in caste system. They mostly claim themselves to be Mughals, Sheikhs or Rajputs. Currently in Lahore they find their places to live in the following areas; Defense, Garden Town, Johar Town, Faisal Town, Model Town, Shahdara and Wafaqi Colony. They amount to about half a million within the 10 million population of Lahore itself. This means that every 19th person in the city is nomad and homeless.

Besides the plight of this community they are often found with these colourful patterns in the form of sheets or quilts commonly called the ‘Ralli’s’ which means bringing together various things and binding them hence the word ‘patchwork’ is used for this kind of work. Although all these communities are found with these patchworks but basically its the craft of ‘Sindh’ region in Pakistan, the craft involves the manipulation of the fabric in three most popular forms i.e combining patchwork, appliqué and embroidery to make up these quilts.

True, original rallis are made by hand, stitch by stitch using only fabric, threads and scissors. The ralli patterns closely resembles the ‘painted pottery of Indus Valley’region from over 3000 years ago.

The most fascinating fact about the manufacturing of this product is that the women making it do not have any kind of design being written down or laid out before them, its just in the form of a mental portfolio in the memories if these women.

Special quilts are often followed by a complete fabric at the back. Quilting is especially festive when the quilt is for a marriage and the sewing is accompanied by singing and stories shared by the ladies among each other. There are legends, folk songs and sayings about ralli. Wealth if a family in the region is determines by the number of rallis they own.

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These rallis are used for sleeping, the old ones are employed as padding for animals, square rallis are used to cover the floor and then food is served above the piece, food mats, very special rallis are made for dowry or wedding gifts as well as a gift to a local ‘holy man’.

Special rallis are embellished with mirrors, sequins, beads, tassels made from silk or yarn and shells. These quilts are made and assembled by women who have been taught textiles from childhood, girls start quilting at the age of 12, which not only sharpens their mind but also let them memorize patterns easily. This skill helps the women find a good partner in terms of marriage as a perk for their special skill.

Recycling: Traditionally rallis were made from recycled and hand dyed cotton cloth. They collect rags from  homes and also asked their neighbors for old clothes and rags. The production of ralli can be found in Sindh in Umerkot and Tharparkot.

The making of ralli in different color schemes, patterns, designs, typology of making varies as we move from lower Sindh to Upper Sindh where lower part involves intricate quilts in black/white, red/yellow, black/white and red/yellow color schemes.

Middle Sindh is followed by many variations in the ralli designs with color schemes that includes white, black, red, yellow, orange, green, blue and purple.

Upper Sindh, famous for intricate blocks of appliqué and sometimes embroidery, multiple borders, tassels in the corner or the entire quilt.

Sindh(Northern), these rallis have very distinct features. I the area of Rahim Yar Khan, rallis consisted of q path blocks with very fine appliqué block, square borders or mix patchwork and appliqué and the use of muted tones/colors.


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

Folk arts have existed for centuries as a simple productional form, and have become more and more complicated with time. 

Take the example of Belarus, where the wooden filigree technique was found at the end of the xxxx century. This historical craft is all about modifying old objects in the form of pottery, glass and textile productions with interesting and unique artistic attitudes. 

A plate decorated in the technic of Sozh skan’ (filigree) [1]

These productions, mostly small-scale, are based on wide use of hand tools and personal skills of craft workers to ensure high quality. Take the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius monastery in Sergiev Posad town of Russia, which had Amvorsij, a talented monk in the 15th century, who was an outstanding carver and jeweler of his time.

Wooden swarfs [5]

The monk created an icon, which was decorated with wooden chips which became a prominent masterpiece of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. It is located at the Museum of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Russia. 

Icon of St. Nicolas with a frame in Sozh filigree technic

The unique religious artwork was discovered by noted Belarusian artist Vladimir Tsekunov who brought this craft back to life in the 1990s, and founded a school in the technique. The art craft is a complicated combination of wooden chips for decoration and creation of unique artistic works. Tsekunov created a special machine with tweezers for wood shavings, which are need for a working process. 

In addition, the master and all his students do not use any additional paints. All works have natural wooden colors without any additional chemical elements. The colors are different because the masters use different types of wood, which give different shades and colors during the process. The width of a wooden chip is no more than a millimeter , and are fixed with liquid glue.  A matte vanish is then applied to the artwork emphasize the beauty of the wood, where a microscope gives sometimes only an opportunity to see the smallest parts of compositional details of this ” timber mosaic”.

Vladimir Tsekunov

There are a limited number of specialists, who work in this technique, such as Sergey Podolnitsky, Michael Shumsky, Eugene Shvetsov and Sergey Kuzmenkon whowork as filigree masters in their own unique styles.

This art, such as the Icon of St. Maria’s heart, a present to Pope Francis the sixth is a unique masterpiece, which cannot be recreated again. Some of these masterpieces are jewelry boxes, panels, and even icons and were given as presents abroad to many famous personalities, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis and others.

Icon of St. Maria’s heart, the present from the president of Belarus to Pope Francis [6]

Sources:

1) http://www.artfolk.by/shumskiy-mihail.html

2) http://www.ctv.by/sozhskaya-skan-unikalnaya-tehnika-vyshivki-derevyannoy-struzhkoy

3) V.V. Tsekunov 1st and 2nd part of film [online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz8IUHYhZ4g]

4) http://tsekunov.narod.ru/photoalbum.html

5)http://www.liveinternet.ru/tags/%D1%EA%E0%ED%FC+%22%D6%E5%EA%F3%ED%EE%E2%EA%E0%22/

6) http://sputnik.by/religion/20151023/1018034209.html


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

The old city of Hyderabad has a grand history of over 800 years. It is famously known world-wide, for housing ‘The Charminar’ and its Char-Kaman. But what is not known about the old city is that it also housed numerous palatial residences of the nobles called ‘Devdis’. These Devdis were the places where the Hyderabadi tehzeeb (lifestyle) evolved and are thus culturally, socially and historically significant. Contrary to the grandeur these Devdis witnessed in their days of glory, today most of them have been mowed down and the few surviving are in a state of neglect.
In the 18th and 19th century, the aristocrats and affluent lived in these traditional fortified devdis. They had 3 exceptional features, the main entrance or the gateway, high enclosed walls and inner courtyards. Security was perhaps the highest priority and the devdis used to be heavily guarded. They were like mini fortresses which were also equipped to provide shelter, security and resources during troubled times to the noble and his clan, which included extended family as well as the servants.

Entrance of the Khursheed Jah devdi/ Courtesy: Saurabh Chatterjee; siaphotography.in/blog/khursheed-jah-devdi-baradari/

As time went by, the nobles started building larger and more impressive devdis as a statement of their wealth, power and influence. The structure of a devdi evolved around series of courtyards with sundry structures radiating out of the courtyard. Except for the Hindu devdis, all had segregated living quarters for men and women. They also accommodated public enclosures like the office of the noble besides the private living quarters.

Some interesting features of the devdis include the main gate that happened to be high enough to let an elephant pass through and the upper floor of these entrances and accommodated space for traditional music to be played during ceremonial occasions.
Inside the devdi, the interiors of the open pillared halls, where the nobles entertained the guests were heavily decorated with wooden or painted ceilings, multi-foliated arches, stone or wooden pillars, stucco work and wooden carvings. They were furnished with velvet carpets embroidered with gold and silver. Chandeliers, both hanging and standing, were customary.

Paigah Palace now used as a function hall/ Courtesy: paigahpalace.com/gallery.php

Numerous European travellers have left accounts of these beautiful devdis. Be it the language, literature, music, dance, etiquette, courtesy, entertainment, cuisine or dress, it was in the devdis, that this Hyderabadi tehzeeb was nurtured right from childhood.

But the partition of India in 1947 and the abolition of the princely state left the nobles debt ridden, without their traditional income. They had to sell their property and one by one the sprawling devdis were demolished. Today only a few of the devdis survive, most of them isolated, crying for attention. A few others, house schools or function halls. Around the city, a couple of gateways stand freely without their walls. These were once entrances to the magnificent devdis. Now cramped with new concrete constructions all around them, the remnants of these devdis even in their state of decay are beautiful and have their own story to tell.

Standing in the midst of the ruins of these devdis, one can try to visualize the structure during its heyday and be transported to an altogether different era. Imagine the hustle and bustle of the household full of life, servants running around, social gatherings taking place, live music being played, food being served and fountains sprinkling.

Asman jah devdi in an utter state of neglect Courtesy: Madhu Gopalan http://fourtowers.blogspot.in/2010/09/asman-jah-devdi.html

Earlier I had passed through these places numerous times, ignorant of their history and wondering why these structures were still standing. Years later, today, I crave to visit them and its heart-breaking to see a piece of them fall apart every time I do so. These devdis are a part of who we are today. They have helped form and develop the lifestyle and culture of every Hyderabadi. What has happened cannot be reversed, but  I feel telling their story is important as ignorance leads to neglect. One can only connect to the bygone era and its heritage, if the stories of these wonderful structures are told. And I for one, have tried to make an attempt at it.


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Meera Menon

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Tripunithura/Tripunitura, a land of temples, has its center marked with the Poornathrayeesa Temple with its history dating almost 10 decades back. This is supposed to be the only temple in South India where one gets to view the ‘Poornatrayeesa’ form of lord Vishnu.

Virschikotsavam is the grand eight-day long festival celebrated in this temple. It is set during the end of November, and this year it will be starting from 28/11, Monday onwards. The most striking part of this festival, or the highlight as we may put it, is the royal procession of 15 elephants, ‘The Ezhunnallippu,’ with the figurine of the deity held on top of the center elephant.
Yet another attraction is the “pancharimelam,” which is a traditional temple art form accompanying the procession, with instruments like Chenda, Kombu, Elathaalam etc.
Even though the procession is done every day, the fourth day, known as the triketta purapadu, is quite special. It was on this day, that we believe,  Vilwamangalam Swamiyar (considered to be a great saint in our history) made his visit. It is said that he found Lord Vishnu in the form of infant Krishna who was playing along with the elephants for the procession. On this day, offerings are made in a golden pot kept in front of the deity. This is believed to bring good luck to the people.
There is yet another story regarding the deity of Poornathayeesa here. It is said that the deity is afraid of firecrackers, which is why there are no ‘Vedi vazhipadu’ or crackers being used!


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Ayesha Ibrahim
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A selection of traditional Baluchi dresses. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pakistan is home to many amazing handiworks but the Balochi embroidery deserves a special mention. According to different sources the Balochi embroidery is regarded as an ancient handicraft that passes from one generation of women to the succeeding. The craft is native to the barren lands of Balochistan celebrating nomadic lifestyle.

Shezad Baloch, a journalist at the Express Tribune quotes Faheem Baloch, a lecturer at the University of Balochistan in a 2012 article, ‘most of the motifs and designs of Balochi embroidery have been inspired by nature, some of the patterns take inspiration from the pottery of the Mehrgarh civilization, one of the oldest civilizations of the world, which once existed in the Bolan district of Balochistan’.

This increases the importance that the craft holds as it points towards an intact cultural practice.

A traditional Balochi shalwar kameez. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

A traditional Balochi shalwar kameez. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The craft basically belongs to women as artisans and also as a wearer. It is said that Balochi women practice the embroidery every day to keep their skills polished. Although machine embroidery is also now available but handcrafted and customized shirts (kameez) hold more value.

The embroidery covers the front of the kameez, along-with the cuffs of the sleeves and shalwar (open trousers). Bright-colored threads, tiny mirrors, and stitching are part and parcel of the final product.

Different regions of Balochistan have their own distinct designs indicating relevance to a particular tribe. For instance, the Kalat district is known for its kalati embroidery, whereas, periwal, jalar, kapuk and naal are a product of Mekran division. Different types of stitches are used in the embroidery which are geometrically organized related to a location or may even relate to a woman’s current situation.

‘A mother who has lost her only son might refrain from using certain stitches in her embroidery, while a widow will be identified by the use of simple threads.’ (Humsheri.org, in a 2015 article). Common motifs used are arrows, chicken feet, diamonds and flowers.

Hand embroidery is not only famous nationally, but is revered in the Gulf countries. The most extravagant dresses are made for the brides; which can sell for as much as Rs 70,000 and could take several months to a year to complete. Simple everyday wear is quiet affordable to the extent that many believe the women responsible for producing such work of art are not being given their due share for the hard work.

References:

  • Baloch, S. (2012). Balochi ensembles: the threads of time. The Express Tribune, http://tribune.com.pk/story/354506/balochi-ensembles-the-threads-of-time/ retrieved 29th October 2016, 3:00pm.
  • Hum Shehri. 2015. Pashk. http://humshehri.org/culture/pashk/ retrieved 29th October 2016, 3:00pm.
  • Embroidery. Asia InCH Encylopedia. The Craft Revival Trust. UNESCO. http://www.craftrevival.org/CraftArtDetails.asp?CountryCode=Pakistan&CraftCode=003468  retrieved 29th October 2016, 3:00pm.

NAZARIYA