Pakistan News

Weaving modern images with indigenous skills

Weaving modern images with indigenous skills

Thirteen years ago, a visit to a weaving unit in Kasur hooked a young student of textile designing, Hassan Babar, to this dying art and craft. The romance with warp and woof became a never-ending story for him. He is one of the few textile artists practicing this tough genre for over a decade.

“I was amused to see the working of powerlooms transforming horizontally and vertically running threads into a stunningly beautiful pattern, which looked like magic to me.

“The curiosity led me to study the functioning and the origins of the loom. Finally, it became my favourite medium of artistic expression when I purchased a traditional handloom in 2007,” he vividly recalls.

Born and raised in Sargodha, his schoolteachers had suggested he opt for visual arts as a profession, considering his passion to paint and draw.

“I was keenly interested in making visuals; I would pick a glass from my father’s workshop, who was into furniture and window glass, and experiment with glass frosting and painting. These kinds of experimentations on my own always fascinated me,” he recalls.

While studying at the College of Arts and Design, University of the Punjab, he employed various techniques of image-making, but weaving remained his prime interest.

After getting a degree of Masters in Textile Designing, he worked with various industrial units that enriched his technical understanding of the medium. Later, he joined the faculty of Sargodha University where he is working till date.

For the last few years, he is pursuing a PhD in visual arts studio practices from the College of Art and Design, University of the Punjab. Rooted in his culture, he is passionate about the revival of the dying tradition of handloom weaving.

“I visited various small towns and villages of Sargodha district to find traditional artisans. In Shahpur and few other small villages, I found very few practicing individuals belonging to families related to this craft. Most of them had left it because it had become hard for them to make a living through it. Based in remote areas, they are dependent on middle men, who give them a meagre price for their highly skilled work.

“It’s unfortunate that a rich artistic treasure has been lost with artisans who have passed away or left the business, as their designs were not documented.

“I am documenting what is left and trying to develop a forum where the artisans can directly sell the artefacts to buyers; it may help revive the dying tradition.”

He is grateful to weaving instructor Ustad Ramzan for his generous help to comprehend the art of weaving. Dr Sumaira Jawad, Zarar Haider Babary and Dr Saifur Rahman Dar helped him a great deal in artistic grooming.

His recent body of works displayed at a solo exhibition is based on the patterns of famous traditional ‘Majnu Khes’. They are delicately executed on handloom, using a wide range of coloured threads creating visual and tangible textures. A few of them have been selected to be showcased at the American Tapestry Biennial 12, next year.

Skillfully weaved portraits and human figures reflecting a masterly command on the medium is an emerging dimension in his new works.

Hassan Babar is a brilliant example of an artist gaining individuality by a single decision -- choosing a unique medium and sticking to it. This must have asked for courage, love for craft and creativity. Courage to learn an out-of-fashion rather a taboo craft, loving enough to labour and the creativity to make it relevant.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2017

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