UNESCO handicraft award winner pledges to revive defunct craft
Recently Mr Yasin Savaijiwala won the “UNESCO - South Asian Seal of Excellence” award for excellence in handicrafts for his hand block printed stole. The award recognises quality products that combine innovation in design, beauty and traditional skills. A total of 167 entries were received from countries like India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal and were evaluated by an international panel of judges.
Yasin's award was among the 27 that India won, the highest number, followed by Pakistan with five, Sri Lanka three, Nepal two and Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan one each. Yasin hails from a traditional family of printers from Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India. He is taking a keen interest in reviving the now defunct craft called Saudagiri. Saudagiri, the art of printing stared around 1852 and was started and practiced by his great grandfather.
But with the passage of time, Saudagiri printing was discontinued by the family in 1958 due to slowdown in demand for the Saudagiri printed fabric. The Saudagiri printed fabrics were exported to Thailand where it was extremely popular. But now Yasin has taken the initiative to revive the now defunct style of printing of fabric and popularize it.
On winning the coveted award, fibre2fashion.com spoke to Yasin, about his award winning stole and his feelings on winning the award. Yasin considers it a great achievement for him and shared details on the process of the award winning stole. He said, “This art is known as Saudagiri. We have lost many traditional printing techniques/styles which were used in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. One such print was 'Saudagiri”.
He continued by saying, “Saudagiri, a craft which was practiced till fifty years back in Gujarat, will soon get a new lease of life. It used to be a great export earner for India and was exported to Siam, now known as Thailand. Saudagiri printing started in the year around 1852 and continued till the Second World War. Saudagiri prints were extremely popular among the Siamese people who referred to them as “Pha Gujarat”. The art is inspired by the temple architecture in Thailand.
“Pattern books still survive. The original black and white line drawings were sent by the Malbari traders from Siam to their Indian counterparts in Surat. Agents would send these drawings to the block makers who would balance the patterns with slight modifications. Once the designs were approved by Siamese traders, the final block making process would commence. These pattern books carry names of the Saudagiri Printers from Gujarat.
He sounded passionate when he said, “I learnt some unique processes of Saudagiri printing, one of which was that during bleaching process the cloth was placed on the sticks and steamed above a pot filled with water and Sodium Bi-Carbonate. By doing this the cloth becomes very soft and thus absorbs the dye properly. This process was called 'Kumbh'. The blocks used for printing in the Saudagiri styleand of just 2.8 inches to 4 inches in size.”
He ended the interview by saying, “To just print a one metre fabric of width 36 inches in two colours we need to print block the fabric around 250 times. The method that is adopted to starch the material is also a unique one and that is why it has that fine look. I am going to put all my efforts in to reviving this long forgotten traditional block printing style."
Fibre2fashion News Desk - India