The news published in Times of India on October 4, 2014 could not escape my attention as it was not so long ago that I had visited with my family (Husband Mukund and daughter Tanya) visited Gafoorbhai Khatri in Nakhatrana village of Kutch in December 2013. We were fortunate to spend one full evening with Gafoorbhai and his family to understand his family legacy and what it takes to preserve the dying art of Rogan. He prepared one bag for us too which is a masterpiece in itself, which I will treasure forever.
I am very glad to note that Modji has gifted a couple of exquisitely handcrafted Rogan paintings to Obama which is a preserve of Khatri family based in Kutch Gujarat. On my interaction with Gafoorbhai, he said, “ Narendrabhai takes special interest in the cause of handicraft people and I am lucky that he takes my Rogan art paintings to gift them to national and international dignitaries.”
When I asked him would you like the US President Obama to have one of your paintings, to this Gafoorbhai replied, “ Insha Allah, when Narendrabhai will visit him”. Today his words have come true.
Please read my blog post on Gafoorbhai’s family and Rogan art for a complete update. I am very proud to say that my blogpost on Rogan art has been read by many researchers in the field of art who are taking it as reference point for their research. May be this is my contribution to the craft…
Nirona Village in taluka Nakhatrana of Kutch was very much part of our tourism plan and particularly the visit to Khatris of Traditional Rogan Art. After driving for nearly hour and a half from our Resort in Hoduko in Kutch, we reached Nirona and in no time found the place as everybody knew about it.
Hesitatingly we knocked the door, but Gafoorbhai Khatri’s warm welcome took away all apprehensions. On that chilly evening, it was a pleasure to sit in his spacious drawing room spanned with rare original Kashmiri carpets. We were lucky to meet his uncle also who even at this age takes active interest in this rare art. Gafoor bhai personally demonstrated the art to us and took us around the work done by his illustrious family and this is eighth generation carrying the legacy forward.
Our daughter Tanya who is active seeker of handicrafts and rare arts was completely mesmerised by the art. She wanted to see all his collections and she loved the Tree design most.
The Rogan art of painting is an ancient art over three hundred years old. The traditional Rogan flower motifs and designs speak of a Persian influence and the word Rogan itself means oil based in Persian. Today Nirona in Kutch is the only place where this work is created. When castor oil is heated over fire for more than 12 hours and cast into cold water, it produces a thick residue called rogan which is mixed with natural colours obtained from the earth. With a six inch metal stick or pen, the crafts person then draws out from this fine thread which is painted to the cloth. Rogan painting is delicately and precisely painted from one’s own creative imagination and is done with total concentration sitting on the floor without using a table frame or any outline.
Rogan painted cloth is used for making pillow covers, table cloths, wall hangings, file folders, decorative pieces and even saris. Rogan art is a rare craft that is not well known even in India. Because of these rare qualities, it’s practised by only one family in India and they reside in Nirona village in Gujarat. Most of the other artisans have lost their art as it was not passed on during partition or lost from generation to generation.
Rogan art is currently the bread earner for a family of Khatris. Gafoorbhai Khatri is the head of this family and he has kept the art alive by ensuring his entire family learns and practices his life’s work. He is a national award winner and is currently in the process of opening a school that teaches Rogan art to children from different families. He has not marketed his creativity through any distribution channels.
Must watch video in conversation with Gafoorbhai of traditional arts:
There are many items available showcasing the antique and rare Rogan art. These are about 100 years old and are only with the Khatri family where you can actually touch and feel feel old and rare Rogan art. Talking to travelknots, Gafoorbhai said, “We have brought in lot of changes in Rogan art to make it most beautiful and real. There is so much difference in old Rogan art and today’s art. We have got very innovative designs and great colour combinations and art which are appreciated by not only Indians but also foreigners.”
He showed us beautiful bed sheet made by his grandfather and great grandfathers preserved in their memory. I could not take my eyes off the skirt hanging in his drawing room made of 9 meters cloth with most striking Rogan art done on that 60 years ago.
Gafoor Bhai said, “Government of Gujarat does not give us any grant though per se, but Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Bhai Modi buys our works to give as gifts to dignitaries. Also we get the free stall in all the handicrafts exhibitions all over India where we get the opportunity to show case our art to the world.” He added, “Any foreigner coming to Kutch has Nironha on his itinery and they make it a point to visit us. They are very enchanted by this rare art and leave their experiences with us.” He showed the visitor’s book which was full of testimonials from nationals right from Japan to Spain to Australia to the US. We also loved to record our impressions.
My daughter loved their house which was very spacious, open and artistically done. Not only this, they had whole family of goats to boot.
Khatris are proud winner of several state and National Awards. Through my blog I will request Gujarat Government to take special interest this rare Rogan Art so that our generations can take pride in it. More importantly it is very important to preserve this rare art which is very much part of the cultural heritage.
Khatris who nurture a dream of opening a school to teach Rogan Art should be whole-heartedly supported not only by the Government, NGOs but also by Individual’s who have interest in preserving our national heritage. For those who want to support can write to me on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to our tour organiser: Mr Mahendrabhai Bheda and his daughter Prachi.