SETU organized a “Workshop on Self development and Quality improvement” for our wood Block printing artisans in the desert areas near Barmer, Rajasthan on 23rd March 2011. Artisans here specialize in Ajrakh block printing, a form of block printing on cloth; characteristic of this region. These artisans belong to the Khatri community and are engaged in this craft for centuries. The word ‘Ajrakh’ means ‘keep it to-day’. It also means making beautiful and in Arabia, Ajrakh indicates the blue colour. This beautiful art form is thought to have originated in the twelfth century and was mainly produced in Jaiselmer, Rajasthan.
Now, production is almost entirely confined to the villages of Barmer in Rajasthan, and Dhamadka and Khavda in Kutch. Artisans practicing this art belong to the Khatri community and are engaged in this craft for centuries. The ancestors of Khatri community, migrated to Dhamadka, Kachchh from Sindh and Ajrakh printing began as a localized art. The art continues to rule the region with the technique handed down from father to son. In recent times, Harijan craftsmen qualified under Khatri craftsmen are also capturing this craft.
For majority of the artisan families residing here, art is the sole source of income. They not only enjoy the work but also earn decent sum of money, thus carving a dignified living for them and their families. However, recently SETU sensed a sort of insecurity in their minds as they are not able to envision a promising future in this art form. The main reason being the fast changing trends of today’s times & development of new technology with each passing day, resulting in faster & low-cost production. The artisans feel that owing to this mechanization after some years there will not be much takers to their hand-made work. And due to this insecurity, they do not encourage their next generation to follow their footsteps.
With an objective to address this serious issue and to give some easy tips on enhancing quality of products, SETU organized a workshop, which was attended by 25 wood Block printing artisans. In the workshop, SETU team consisting of team head Rashmi, team members Devendra Dhariwal and L.R. Kaushal , special volunteers Amininder and Harpreet from Canada presided the workshop.
It was a highly interactive session where artisans put forward their viewpoints.Printed resource materials were distributed amongst the participants & by means of questionnaires & strategic motivational talks, their fears were dissipated & their self-confidence boosted up. They were also made aware of the fact that more and more people are now realizing the importance of handmade eco-friendly products and the future lies in it. SETU team also told the ground realities of migrated labor doing odd jobs in big cities, their hardships & insecurities.