THE CONTEMPORARY CRAFTSMAN
Anwar Irfan Khatri, like many others in his community, is an expert at the art of ajrakh printing. The printing technique, native to what would later become Sindh, came to India in the 16th century when Khatri’s ancestors migrated to Kutchh. Getting its name from the Hindi phrase ‘aaj rakh’ (keep it today), probably an advertising strategy those ancestors employed, it is a unique dry printing style that is a popular symbol of Sindhi and Kutchhi culture. It is also, like so many others, a dying craft, one that people like Khatri are fighting to keep alive.
A national award winning craftsman, Anwar is the second of four brothers in a family that has practiced ajrakh printing for generations. He began to learn the art and print when he was 15. In 2006, he studied at the Kala Rakshak Vidyalaya, an initiative of the Kala Raksha Trust that has worked for over two decades to train traditional artisans in Kutchh. But while it is there that he learnt how to integrate his skills with the demands of a professional designer, how to weave together themes and create a collection, his fundamental effortlessness and involvement as an artiste is one that cannot be taught; it is in his blood, an incredible gift of genes that can transform bolts of fabric into canvases of art. He took those skills and rejuvenated his art, taking ajrakh prints to global audiences by collaborating with designers from different countries. His bags, dupattas and stoles are available today in showrooms and fairs all over the world, as well as over the Internet.