I am at Mohamad Jabber's home in Nirona, Kutch. He is the 8th generation of Rogan art practitioner, a dying art which has only 2 families left practicing it for their livelihood. Jabbar bhai's illustrious family history has several state award, national award recipients and an International Craft Designer award as well. And one of the first craftsmen to receive a Padmashri for the craft is Mohamad Abdulgafur Khatri, Jabbar bhai's cousin brother. 15 such awards and more accolades poring in with the History channel featuring the family and their art.
One of the many Newspaper articles featuring the family and their art.
So, what is Rogan all about. It is hand painting with an iron 'Kalam' or pen which has a pointed end, used deftly with the hand to create filaments from a mixture of viscous castor oil and powdered pigment colour. The Castor oil is boiled for 6-7 hours daily for 2 days to derive a dense, brown paste which is known as 'Rogan'. This is then mixed with mineral powder pigments to add colour. The wrist of the artisan is used as the palate. He then uses the 'kalam' to stir it to a consistency so that he can skillfully pull out coloured filaments to paint in the desired patterns and motifs on cloth.
Jabbar bhai giving us a demonstration.
This craft was previously practiced to create traditional motifs on the skirts that the women wore. It was essentially for utilitarian purposes only. Gradually printed fabrics made way as cheaper options and as people stopped buying Rogan, practitioners stopped painting . They took up other jobs for their livelihood. Jabbar bhai's family kept it alive for 400 years as craft for the longest time and now reinvented it as an 'Art' by creating wall decoration pieces which are framed and sold for the patrons who appreciate the intricate movement of the wrist, the slow process and find beauty in the traditional motifs.
An old skirt with Rogan on it.