After the devastating Gujarat earthquake of 2001, Khatri Abdul Halim Ushman moved to Dhamadka 50 kilometres from his ancestral village of Bhuj, which was devastated by the tremors..Kutch suffered very extensive damage and destruction, including Bhuj. It was a very cold morning in January when the Earth shook and mud-walled structures tottered and collapsed. “I was lucky. I ran out of the house with family members but in an instant, everything we had was reduced to rubble,” he recalls with a pain-stricken faraway look.
Burdened by the loss of the Ancestral Village and home, Halim’s father passed away in shock and grief aftyer moving to Dhamadka, Halim Khatri who has learnt the intricate art of block printing from his craftsman father since he was in Ninth Standard, left Village and took up a job of a Machine operator in Mumbai.
However his deep passion for Ajrakh block printing, an Art learnt from his beloved father forced him to leave Mumbai and join the artisan community moving away from Dhamadka, to set up Ajrakhpur, in order to rebuild their lives and continue their tradition of printing.
Abdul Halim Khatri always use Natural dyes, increased prices of natural herbs and minerals and demand for synthetic fabrics at cheaper prices impacted demand for his work. But he would rather keep his legacy Alive.
However he constantly worries about the depletion of ground water. Water is vital for printing and washing. Small rivulets and water flows in Kutch have dried up due to dams built on the Indus river in Sindh and the village has electricity only for six hours daily.
Whatever be it, the Art of Ajrakh has to Go On. It is too beautiful and aesthetic to let perish, he believes.
Contact / Background Information :
Name: Khatri Abdul Halim Ushman
Address: Ajrakhpur, Gujarat. INDIA.
Age: 40 Years.
Marital Status: Married.
Art Experience :
My father was an Ajrakh artisan. Generations before him carried on the art. It passed down to my father and now to me. Our art is called ‘Ajrakh’ and our village derives its name ” Ajrakhpur ” from that.
‘Ajrakh’ denotes the slow, painstaking process in which the artisan proceeds step-wise. He prints one colour of a design and washes the cloth till he gets the colour right before printing the next colour. So the process means ” Aaj ke din rakh “or keep it for the day, till the colour fastens: don’t be in a tearing hurry like the modern world!
In 2001 Gujarat Earthquake, many traditional block-printing artisans of this region died, everything was destroyed, but we have survived,” and “It is important we work together and pass on our skills to our Next Generations for this heritage to continue.
"Ajrakh for Me is a Fond memory of my father and Bhuj where I was born & raised, a remembrance of our tradition and staying at its roots " .