Rogan Art-The ‘Almost’ Lost Persian Art Revived by Kutch’s Khatri Clan
When you talk about diversity, nothing indeed can define it better than art, and when you reside in a country like India, art forms are the most credible identities of cultures; art forms that have survived through centuries, art forms that have even become synonymous with family names. One such Indian form is Rogan printing art.
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Rogan is the Persian word for oil and the art is named so since castor oil forms the very base of its preparation. It travelled all the way from its origin country Persia (now Iran) to India almost 300 years ago. Though its travel story is still a mystery to historians, persistence of this fabric print art remains an intriguing story. In the present day though, not many custodians of this unique art form are left to preserve it.
In fact, word is that there is only one family in Gujarat’s Kutch that is responsible for keeping this rare, exclusive printing art alive and thriving, the Khatris of Nirona. There was a time when practice of this painting was scattered across various regions of Kutch, but after 2001 earthquake, when much of the regions were devastated, only the Khatris were able to retain and continue it.
The Pride of Khatris
The most notable work of Rogan art is The Tree of Life crafted by National Award winner artist, Abdul Gafur Khatri. The Tree of Life along with one other Rogan painting was presented to America’s former president Barrack Obama by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the White House.
Rogan Art Painting gifted to Barrack Obama,Image Credit- India TV.
Intricately Handcrafted Sample of Rogan Art, Image Credit – safaritalk.net
According to an article published by The Hindu in January 2018, Rogan has been passed down to almost eight generations of the Khatris. Hamid Khatri stated that while the first six generations struggled to get their due credits, the family was happy that it was finally getting recognized and was being appreciated and acclaimed both in India and abroad.
In a detailed post on the Khatris published on middleeasteye.net, Rizwan Khatri, another young artist of the clan, recollected his story on how a handful of fashion students had visited his workshop to learn more about the art form. It was then when one of the students connected him to Indian designer Salita Nanda. Her collection titled Ophelia showcased Rogan work at Lakme Fashion Week in Paris, which further raised its value and demand in the national as well as international market.
Salita Nanda’s Design with Rogan Art, Image Credit – middleeasteye.net
In 2019, Abdul Gafur Khatri was awarded with Padma Shri for reviving and sustaining this rare art form. Out of nine members practicing this art, six of them have already been awarded with prestigious awards, both state and national. Needless to say, Rogan art indeed has become the pride of Khatris.
An Art from Heart
In an interview with Amazon, Mr. Khatri said that Rogan painting is a piece of art that comes directly from heart. There are no tracings or drawings prior to the commencement of designs and this is also followed by Rizwan. When one comes to think of it, one cannot help but wonder that while it takes a compass for us to make a perfect circle, the Khatri artisans can paint such minute detailed pieces without even blinking and with such perfection, not to mention the tedious process involved in making the dye and preserving it.
Role of Internet in Resurgence
True it is that Gafur bhai has worked head over heels to bring his works to the limelight and preserve Rogan art in the process, but even he admits that Internet has indeed played a crucial role in spreading the word. Even during the time of pandemic, Gafur bhai and his family is busy connecting with people via Internet.
In an interview with The Hindu, Jabbar Khatri, Gafur bhai’s newphew, said how they have continued to connect digitally. He said that 2020 has been a bit rough since the sales are low but lots of budding designers and artists have enquired about their products and workshops promising to visit the family once things get back to normal.
Jabbar admitted that in the tough times, the enthusiastic, budding artists kept them motivated. The article also mentions that a lot of young artists and designers who learned Rogan at the Khatris are now introducing it to their works. Vanshika Gupta, who learned the art from Gafur Bhai and Jabbar is now finding ways to incorporate this in face masks.
Face mask with Rogan art crafted by Vanshika Gupta, Image Credit – The Hindu
For Gafur bhai, it seems nothing short of a miracle that his hard work of all these years are finally paying off.
Author: Tuhina Neogi Das