Ready for Rogan

A rogan artist at work. Photo: Special Arrangement  

A 15-year-old clad in jeans and a trendy pullover sat engrossed painting on a piece of cloth. Colours lay on his left palm in a jelly-like form and Sahil would dip into it his metal stylus and create intricate patterns. The precise hand didn't falter one bit and continued, unaffected by the din around. Sahil was giving a live demonstration of the centuries-old craft tradition called Rogan painting at the Chinmaya Mission, where he was showcasing his wares along with fellow artisans from Kutch, brought by an NGO called Khamir.

“The design isn't first drawn in pencil. The artiste does it directly. The art, after all, is in our blood so the skill is not acquired, it is inherent,” explained Khatri Sumar Daud, Sahil's uncle.

Sahil is one of the youngest members of the eighth generation to have taken to Rogan painting and with much enthusiasm and willingness. It then becomes easy to understand how the art form continues to flourish in this household, whereas everywhere else it is a different story.

In Gujarat, Nirona, Khavada and Chaubari were the hubs of Rogan art and bustling with its practitioners till a few years ago but not any more.

The rich tradition of Rogan painting began some centuries ago among the Khatris, a Muslim community who trace their origin to Sindh.

The other Khatri craftsmen gave up their ancestral craft after it stopped yielding good returns and switched over to other jobs but not this particular family.

The eight male members — all of whom have State and National awards to their credit — in the joint Khatri family are experts of their craft and produce eclectic items like wall-hangings, pillow covers, table cloths bearing imagery which combines influences of Persian miniatures and local folk art, mainly for the international market. A lot of tourists who visit the village also pick up stuff from them.

The exposure tourism brought gradually led to an increase in demand. And the family now even runs a unit employing outsiders, with a hope to make their products available in the market.

“The products are not easily available and those who want to buy it have to come to the family in Nirona,” points out Sumer.

Recently the family, with the support of an organisation, has trained 60 women out of which some are employed with the Khatris and a few have been absorbed elsewhere.”

Marking a departure from the age-old tradition, the women have entered what was the reserve of the men folk.

They are from various castes and faiths.

Making colours

Making colours is an equally significant part of the process. Castor oil is boiled extensively and vegetable dyes added to it. It is stored in earthen pots with water for some time and the final product obtained is a glue-like substance.

Reinventing the craft is as pressing a need as is the requirement to spread it. And the family is doing its bit. As against the bridal trousseau or bed sheets, quilt covers, etc., that Rogan was used to decorate, the craftsmen have extended it to contemporary products like bags, cushion covers, tablecloths and pieces that can be hung and framed. At the exhibition, Sumer had displayed a 50-year-old piece to demonstrate the difference to visitors. “It's much sharper and refined. Tree of life with all its colour and vigour is the main imagery in our works.”

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 8:25:09 PM |

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