Bhopal: ‘4000 Bagh Print artisans dwindled to 500 in last two decades’

Govt should step in to save the art, says master craftsman Umar Khatri

SmitaUpdated: Sunday, June 12, 2022, 02:23 AM IST
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Master craftsman Umar Faruk Khatri showcasing his works in an exhibition ‘Bagh Utsav,’ at Gauhar Mahal in the city. |

Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Bagh, a traditional hand block print of Madhya Pradesh may well slip into extinction as artisans are migrating to other places in search of livelihood, says national and international award-winner master craftsman Umar Faruk Khatri.

“In the year 2000, there were around 4,000 craftsmen in Bagh print art. Now there are barely 500. Till a couple of years back, 50 craftsmen worked with us but now their number has slipped to 20,” says the 41-year-old master craftsman who hails from Bagh.

Umar’s family has been associated with this art for the past four generations. His father, Ismail Sulemanji Khatri, is credited with making Bagh print popular nationally and internationally.

The print originated in Bagh, a small town in the Dhar district. The town, named after the Bagh River on the banks of which it is located, continues to be the sole place in the country where Bagh-printed textiles are produced.

Umar says during the pandemic, when work was scarce, a large number of traditional practitioners of the art migrated to Gujarat and Maharashtra in search of livelihood.

He says that unless the government steps in, the art may soon become history. “The government can do two things. One, it can establish a training centre where master craftsmen can train youth in the art. And two, it can subsidise the raw materials used in making Bagh print textiles, he says.

He says that the cost of raw materials like colours and cotton fabric has more than doubled. The master craftsman said that in keeping with the changing times, the Bagh artisans will have to shift to online marketplaces. “The future belongs to online commerce,” he says.

Umar was in the city in connection with an exhibition ‘Bagh Utsav’ of Bagh Print he holds annually at Gauhar Mahal in memory of his father. He says that despite the growth of online markets, exhibitions are still needed as they help introduce the people to the art and thus keep it alive. “We also hold live demonstrations in exhibitions,” he says. Umar says that he could not hold the annual event for the past two years due to the pandemic.

At the age of 7, Umar has learned nuances of traditional techniques and natural dyes from his father. He was awarded with the National Award by Govt. of India, State Award by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh and Award of Excellence by UNESCO (WCC).

For Promoting this Craft, he has showcased his works and given demonstrations across the country as well as abroad including Birmingham (England), Greece, Bahrain, Bogota (Colombia) Surajkund, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bhopal etc. He has trained the art to more than 300 people.

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