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THE LOST CRAFT OF KHAIS

THE LOST CRAFT OF KHAIS

The land of Pakistan is divided into four regions of Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; each of which has a different identity of its region. The culture of Pakistan is therefore multifaceted as it is defined by different traditions and various ethnicities, who have been residing in those particular areas for generations. Even after the partition of 1947, the geographical lines were defined and borders were marked to specify the districts; the diverse ethnicities are what constitute the face of our nation and celebrate the indigenous crafts of these regions that narrate our traditions. 

Among the numerous timeless crafts of these regions is the craft of Khais weaving, which is indigenous to the region of Sindh and Punjab. The craft of Khais weaving has been present since the time of the Mughal Era and evolved, hence becoming the cultural identity of our nation. The families who migrated from India brought this craft with them and passed it on from generation to generation, therefore the craft has been the sustaining factor for those families that regionally produced this hand-woven fabric. The technique with which it is produced is called double cloth weaving; meaning the pattern of the weave is the same on both sides of the fabric but the color dominance is changed.

DIFFERENT EXAMPLES OF HAND-WOVEN KHAIS SHOWING THE OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE SAME FABRIC

The Khais fabric was initially produced as a house-hold craft for the need of warm cloth during winters as it has a thick sensation to it and was used as a bed-spread or a wrap to cover the body. The craft of Khais weaving is not similar to other fabrics as it is a different and genuine technique, with also being a laborious and time-consuming skill. The identity of this craft is defined by the skills of craftsmen’s hands which produce this particular piece of art on a hand-loom. The indigenous crafts of Sindh and Punjab are both dissimilar to each other hence having different characteristics of their own region. The weave pattern of the cloth is somewhat different which has resulted in different designs for each region’s Khais. Alternating colors are used so that the technique, with which it is produced, shows the double-sided feature of this fabric and entices the eyes of the viewers.

CLOSE-UP OF TEXTURED PATTERN OF KHAIS

KHAIS OF SINDH

The town of Nasserpur in Sindh is dated to be the original home of the craft where it was last documented as well. Bright colors are used to produce the Khais fabric that is now made with artificial fibers, but earlier it was made with pure cotton and of finer quality. This is the reason behind the intricacy of details on Khais which is made in Sindh.

KHAIS OF PUNJAB

The Khais made in Punjab is of only two colors unlike the ones made in Sindh that include more colors, with also bold motifs in the pattern that are quite opposite to the intricate ones. Also, the Khais of Punjab is of denser weight as the fabric construction of it is different than that of made in the Sindh region.

With the rise of modern technology, the craft of hand-loom weaving has been neglected as more importance is given to machine produced fabric that is easily made with tech skills. Therefore, this intricate hand-craft skill has lost its way and affected the craft which is on the brink of extinction. In Sindh, there were a couple of places where Khais fabric could be found that was produced in those particular regions, but Nasserpur was the only place where this craft was last documented and seen being produced by the craftsmen. Today, even in Nasserpur this craft is no longer practiced as the families have lost those craftsmen who were unable to pass on the skill to their future generations, and hence, the cultural identity of this craft is only left in images that were documented in earlier times. As a nation, we have lost the appreciation to recognize the beauty of this hand-woven fabric and grasp it because in pursuit of fast-fashion brands.

HAND-WOVEN KHAIS FABRIC

MACHINE MADE KHAIS

Nasheman Studio, a sustainable fashion brand by Waqar J Khan is the only brand that is using GOTS certified cotton to produce its fabric that will further be used to make sellable products. Waqar has been working with the artisans’ community for 5 years now and they are the only ones left who make Khais fabric in the region of Sindh, hence the preservation of craft is being practiced by these weavers. It is the approach of the brand to not let this rich heritage die because of fast-fashion practices and help the community to carry on with their legacy, so that the future generations can also continue with this craft and be proud of their identity.

PRODUCTS FROM THE COLLECTION SUSTANCE 2021 BY NASHEMAN STUDIO MADE FROM HAND-WOVEN KHAIS FABRIC

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