An Art of Block Printing

Ajrak (Sindhi: اجرڪ) is a name given to a unique form of block-printed shawls found in Sindh, Pakistan. These shawls display special designs and patterns made using block printing by stamps. Common colours used while making these patterns may include but are not limited to blue, red, black, yellow and green. Over the years, Ajraks have become a symbol of the Sindhi culture and traditions.

The process of Ajrak block printing takes time, team work and special skills. The three main tools of a block printed fabric are the wooden blocks, the fabric and the dye. It can take five carvers up to three days to create an intricate design in a block of teak for use as a printing block. The printers may use up to 30 blocks to complete a design. Separate blocks are required for each of the colors used in a design and it is not unusual to have four or five colors in a professional design. It can take twenty people, each doing a separate task, up to eight hours to prepare a single block printed garment. With all this, the results can only be unique and it seems this process of block printing has been used for centuries and is still in vogue.

Noorjehan Bilgrami in her book ‘Sindh Jo Ajrak’ (Ajrak of Sindh) depicts the minute details of making of Ajrak. The dyeing/printing process of Ajrak is long and intricate and exists in Sindh before the age of chemical dyes. The blues and reds of Ajrak came from indigo and madder plants. Some extracts of this research work is reproduced below for your information. 

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