Rogan art Life & Style

The mystique that is rogan art

Intricate pattern

Intricate pattern  

On his recent visit to Hyderabad, M Jabbar Arab Khatri shares the story of the 300-year-old rogan art of Kutch

In a casual tee and trousers, rogan artist M Jabbar Arab Khatri has just finished taking a walk around Punjagutta exploring the city. It has been only two days since his first visit to Hyderabad but we realise the city is not a stranger to him. He shows the photograph of a rogan art done on a fabric where the city’s splendid architecture had come alive. Resplendent with earthy colours, elaborate motifs and intricate detailing, Hyderabad’s edifice stands tall here. Royalty and heritage is a common factor that binds Hyderabad and rogan art of Kutch with a 300-year-old history. With floral, animal (peacock, elephant) geometric designs, this ancient art of hand-painting is a treasure of Kutch. There is no particular theme as the artisans paint what they feel.

Rogan art

Rogan art   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Organised by city-based Studio Amoli, the two rogan art workshops conducted at Phoenix Arena and ACK Alive brought Jabbar to the city. Hailing from Nirona village of Kutch in Gujarat, the Khatris are traditional artisans. Among the few families that practised this time-consuming and painstakingly difficult rogan art, Khatris are the only ones left still continuing this art form. “The turning point came in 1985,” says Jabbar sharing how his uncle Abdul Ghafur Khatri left the family tradition and went to Bombay. “My grandfather wrote a letter asking him to come back. He returned and has been instrumental in retaining its old glory,” he says. It was a moment of pride when Ghafur won a Padma Shri recently. The Khatris are a big joint family consisting of three families; With 10 members working in the rogan art unit, Jabbar’s father, Arab Hasam Khatri is also a national award winner and the family members have won around 18 state and national awards among themselves.

Jabbar studied only till X std in Gujarati medium and often played cricket with his friends on open grounds. “We never force young members in the family to take up this art; They get attached with their own interest,” he says giving his own example. He found his calling in rogan after discontinuing studies but his first exhibition at Crafts Museum in Delhi along with his father was not as expected. “I stayed on when I realised I enjoyed the art despite challenges,” he says.

Jabbar Arab Khatri

Jabbar Arab Khatri   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

One of his endeavours has been to popularise and blend the art to suit contemporary needs. Traditionally, rogan art was done on skirts and quilt covers. “Our work is handmade, intricate and hence expensive. There was a lot of struggle when cheap prints hit the market. Our family members worked even as labourers to sustain the art. It is only now that we have got the platform,” he says.

The art finds a place in utility products including mobile covers, sling and shopping bags. The tree of life design (copyright by Ghafur) is a popular wall piece. Jabbar informs Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gifted this Tree of Life to former US President Barack Obama when he had visited the U.S. in 2014.

Gafur also made news when he created a sari with rogan art (it takes six months to make one). Two years ago, the art found a digital market place too. “One needs a lot of patience. Care has to be taken to see that the stroke remains the same,” he adds. Jabbar has been touring India. Deepavali and the next two months after the festival is a busy period when tourists flock their village. “During winter season, around 400 people visit our house. Many legendary actresses like Waheeda Rahman and Asha Parekh had visited us.”

Arab Hasam Khatri

Arab Hasam Khatri   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

The Kutch Rann Utsav has also helped bring many tourists. “As the days are short in winter and gets difficult to dry the fabrics, we do not focus much on the work. During monsoon, we focus on intricate designs that can be done indoors. We also have to take care that the fabric doesn’t move because of wind,” he shares.

Their village is also a hub for many young researchers and fashion students wanting to document their lives and create fabrics with their art. “We are also famous as they show rogan history on National Geographic,” he smiles. Jabbar hopes designers draw inspiration from rogan and the art form finds a place in fashion weeks.

“We are working with leather to create bags and wallets; the sad part is some replicate our base colours to create duplicate products,” bemoans Jabbar.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 3:29:26 PM |

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