Understanding our culture is the key to forming our identities. Fortunately many of us are lucky to live in a province like Sindh which is bursting with culture. Even though, the Sindhi culture usually prevails only in the rural areas, our politicians have now taken an initiative to revive the customs that have been fading in the urban areas. The first Sindh festival lasted for 15 days and bought with it entertainment and education for all. Amongst the most interesting and awe striking of the events was the exhibition titled ‘Romancing Sindh’. The exhibit was held at Full Circle gallery in collaboration with ‘SozaanKaar’ and celebrated the cultural heritage of the province. Curated by Guddo Haider Tajammul, the owner of the gallery as well as the brand, SozaanKaar, the exhibition included instillations, textile work, paintings and photography.
Of ajrak, ralli and chunri:
Beginning with the most noticeable exhibit, the Sindhi Textile, the gallery had much to offer to the viewers. This display aimed to celebrate the evolution of textiles in Sindh, by placing focus on the three most striking textile products made in this region; the ‘ajrak’, the ‘ralli’, and ‘chunri’. The history of all three textile products dates back to the era of the Indus Valley Civilisation. In Sindh, ajrak, ralli, and chunri remain native to the people of this land and even with the advancement in the processes of their creation; their roots remain consistently true to the province of Sindh.
Ajrak is the jewel of Sindh and people have deep reverence for the ajrak. From birth to marriage, and until death, the ajrak commemorates every significant event of the life-cycle and is amongst the few fabrics that has no class barriers; rich and poor use it with the same respect. The traditional process of making an ajrak is highly complex, comprising 21 different stages. This is why it takes a month to complete a piece of ajrak.
The ralli on the other hand is known as quilt, signifies sufis’ concept of humility, by reusing old cloth. The tradition of ralli or quilt-making is common in Sindh, Baluchistan, and in Cholistan. It is made by laying multiple layers of cloth, one upon the other. Almost every rural household in Sindh contains a collection of rallis, usually made by members of the family for everyday use. In Sindh, two different types of ralli are produced; the tuk (piece) ralli and the kata (cut) ralli.
Last but not least is chunri, perhaps the most evolved or mutated textile form that has permeated in Sindh. This process took root in parts of the subcontinent that can now be found in India and Punjab. Regarding the textile display in the exhibition, Guddu Haider explained that the idea was to represent the heritage and show the transition to modernity through textile work. Needless to say, her idea was a success as the clothes were ethnic yet modern and wearable.
The main attraction of the exhibition was however, the gigantic display of a woman wearing a skirt made of a variety of Sindhi textiles, such as ajrak and chunri. The height of the woman represented the inner strength of the women of Sindh and how they are rising in the society everyday.
“Many women are suppressed in this country but that doesn’t mean they are weak. The instillation of the tall woman depicts that very inner pride,” told Guddu Haider.
Another interesting exhibit was the photographs that depicted the essence of Sindh, that is; Sufis, poets and musicians. Sindh is known as the land of saints and dervishes, both Muslim and Hindu. It is because of the Sufis that Sindh is called the cradle of love and peace. The Sufi saints are loved and respected and have a large following among Muslims and Hindus of every strata. This spiritualism offers a world without sectarian, ethnic and communal difference. It is due to this hold of mysticism in Sindhi culture, that there is hardly any religious or sectarian frenzy in the interior of Sindh as compared to other parts of Pakistan.
The remaining walls of the gallery displayed paintings relating to Sindh – Ismail Gulgee’s portrait of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Imran Soomro’s intermixing portrait of Benazir Bhutto and the Mona Lisa/Benazir, along with several exquisite paintings of Sindhi women by Ali Abbas and Imran Zaib. The best amongst them all was however, Ismail Gulgee’s painting that was made in 1976. The depth in the painting lies in the eyes of Zulfiqar Bhutto. The painting is so real that no matter where you stand in the room, you can feel Bhutto’s eyes following you.
The exhibition had all this and more of Sindh, from vases to Sindhi ‘topi’ and from furniture to mirrors. The exhibit surely gave a magnified view of the culture of this province and was a treat for the eyes. For those who missed it, well, you just have to wait for the Sindh festival next year.