Blockprints 101: Ajrak


Full of history and culture, Ajrak are block printed cloths of symmetrical patterns, mostly in dark crimson red, indigo blue and unprinted white motifs. Due to this characteristic, Ajrak is believe to be derived from "Azrak", meaning blue. This age-old craft can be traced back to approximately 2500 BCE of the civilizations in the Indus Valley. The subcontinent developed the technology of dyeing and patterning of fabric and the well known 'Priest-King' stone statue is believe to be wearing an Ajrak


Source: Harappa

Till this day, Ajrak is still being used as an essential part of the Sindhi tradition. Men use it as turbans and wearing it around their shoulders while women use it as shawls. Other use includes hammocks, bed sheets, scarves and more. The typical length of the Ajrak is about two and a half to three meters. The symmetrical patterns, which is oftentimes framed within a border, is carved on wooden blocks by hand and printed using resist printing method. Unlike normal fabric printing methods of printing directly on cloths, resist printing method entails the use of dye-resistant paste first before being immerse in dye. The dyeing process is repeated till the desire patterns achieve their deep red and blue shade. The longer the cloth remains immersed in dye the more vivid the final result will be. This can take up to two weeks to complete. The whole process is time consuming and requires high craftsmanship as the whole process can fail when the character of the water used is not met. Water is an important ingredient for the successful creation of the Ajrak. The method for creating Ajrak is an ancient craft that exists for many centuries and is in harmony with nature, making it environmentally friendly. 

Although, the age-old craft has been declining due to modern industrial printing methods and the usage of bright chemical dye, as sustainability and environmentally friendly process become increasingly more looked upon, the hand crafted, natural muted colours, time consuming and precise print method has been slowly regaining its previous fame.

 Source: Gaatha, Sahapedia, House of Pakistan