Dostkari: The India-Pakistan Design Workshop
Dastkari Haat Samiti, New Delhi
India and Pakistan: Two countries with a shared history and heritage would have a lot in common in its crafts. Yet, fifty years is a long time for each country to form its own new identity. In DOSTKARI, the India-Pakistan design workshop, the effort was to find this commonality.
It was pre-decided that for every chosen craft from Pakistan, there would be a matching craft from India. . Wood, leather, hand painting, ajrak, block-printing, and embroidery were adequately represented from both sides. It had been decided that there would be no competition. Instead, an artisan from each side was put together to work on a product.
Having chosen friendship as the underlying theme, one had to come up with product ideas that can be made by two artisans with the span of two weeks. Ideas that were tossed around include
- Children’s products, as they are the future
- Games, as they represent a friendly competition,
- Lamps, as they spread light.
All these still did not amount to a collection. One had to work further, to form a distinct design concept. That could happen only after the artisans arrived and their products and skills were analysed.
The designers worked upon a collection after an initial exploratory stage. This is the stage when products were presented by artisans from both the nations. Making-skills were assessed, techniques were compared and product ideas were discussed threadbare to put together a collection in 2 weeks.
Ajrak, a process that is practised on both sides of the border was chosen as the anchoring element. Ajrak, interestingly is also printed on both sides of the fabric. It made sense to use this idea.
Ajrak is still practised in Pakistan, the traditional way. In India, it has undergone changes to suit the emerging markets. New products have evolved, techniques have been honed. Putting together artisans of both countries to make space dividers, seemed like an exciting idea.
Space dividers were designed to form a backdrop for the setting. Colours from ajrak were chosen to form a palette that would influence the colours in other products as well.
One it was decided that there would be tall backdrop of Ajrak screens, the other products started falling in line. An entire range of interior products idea emerged. Interior products that contribute to a friendly, bi-lateral environment was chosen. Products include cushion covers and bolsters, mirror frames and photo frames for the walls, board games in fabric and wood for a friendly exchange, lamps on the wall, floor and side tables to lighten up the atmosphere. Decorative chimes were also included to complete the picture.
Each product had to represent two skills, making them really unique. Mughal motifs and grids were used wherever possible as the language of the pattern, since Mughal legacy is common to both the countries. The result is a collection of products that are both unique in its appearance as well as a representation of the skills of both India and Pakistan.
If the lamp base of the Chinar lamp was made by the Indian wood craftsman from Pilakhuwa, the shade was painted on camel skin by the Pakistani artisan. Likewise, each product is a blend of two parts, one part made by an Indian artisan and another by the Pakistani counterpart.
The collection is a result of this unique blending of skills by design. . Thus a *dosti ka mahol* was created. DOSTKARI has been established.