Art, dance, entertainment, games and all other forms of involving the human mind is what has always made civilizations alive and stories of cities worth telling. Cultures have always told stories of cities beyond time & they make the city worth remembering. But as we move towards the technological age (which is not bad either), let’s look at these beautiful art forms that once added value to the land we are living in.
Amongst the many dying art forms of India is Rogan painting from Rann of Kutchh of Gujarat. This beautiful art form was earlier practised by Muslim Khatris ( a Kutchh community) and has only six surviving practitioners. The art is a type of fabric painting made using boiled castor oil and vegetable dyes. The artwork is generally laid down using metal blocks or stylus (metal rod) on a black or dark coloured fabric which makes the intense colours stand out.
As beautiful as this art form is, it has been through and caused discrimination, too. To begin with, women were not allowed to practise this art form initially because the men thought they would spoil this creative work. Also, like other old art forms, this was passed on only inside the family which is also one of the reasons why it was lost. Interestingly, this was a seasonal art that happened only during wedding seasons. The final painted fabric was generally purchased by women of lower classes to decorate their wedding clothes and bed coverings.
One reason why the art form was in this unknown state could also be due to these restrictions. The artform was not spread and open for everyone beyond the community to learn. It came to the attention of people when PM Narendra Modi gifted the Tree of Life, a Rogan painting made by Abdul Gafar Khatri to President Barack Obama.
The painting became a new point for those interested in art and wanted to learn this art. Finally, the art form was opened for the world to learn. Many workshops were conducted by Abdul Gafar Khatri and his family members where people could learn this art form. Even women can learn Rogan painting now in these workshops.
Abdul Gafar Khatri also received the Padmashree award for reviving this form of art. He went on to explore this way of painting in the textile industry by experimenting with it on Khadi silk fabric which turned out to be a masterpiece. The use of this art form in textiles created employment and helped the villagers of Kutchh earn a livelihood for themselves. It is interesting how one artwork changed the course of the entire area & so many people. Opening the doors for the world to learn this art was probably the best way the art would live longer.