Most bandhani artisans in Kutch-Gujurat, India, are men who come from the Khatri lineage—they create the designs and dye, and the women tie the fine dot, resist-dyed patterns. Zakiya Adil Khatri is changing that. From childhood on, Zakiya was deeply interested in handicrafts and knew she wanted to make a career in the field, but not sure what area. She learned the tie-and-dye process from her mother when she was young, but her father’s family tradition was batik. Zakiya explains, “I used to go to the workshop with my father but as I grew up, people in my family tried to stop me to go to the workshop, but my father always supported me. He advised me to come to the workshop when others went back home. There we would work into the late evenings. This is the way my father satisfied my hunger of learning the crafts.” So Zakiya learned batik, but it was bandhani that she returned to for her artistic expression.
From Maker to Designer to Entrepreneur
“I chose bandhani as my focus at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya (KRV) because I was deeply interested in this craft and was practicing it at four years of age.” It was at KRV that she learned many new things about design. “When we think we know nothing,” Zakiya says, “that is the beginning of education. Through principles, there are many ways to make traditional designs new. After taking a color class, I learned new concepts for use. After taking Basic Design, I saw rhythm, movement, balance everywhere. Challenge takes you ahead.”
“I was in my third class of my design education, when I suddenly lost my father, and he was like my spine. In a society like ours, if any girl is doing well in her field, or is doing what she wants to do, it’s due to a supportive father. But I completed my design education only because of two strong women: my mother and another one like my mother, Judy Frater.” Zakiya graduated from KRV with awards for Best Collection, Most Marketable Collection, and Best Student.
Zakiya goes on to say, “At that time when I finished my design education and I started to work in the field, I learned that design education is not enough to be in a very male-dominated field. I needed business and management education to improve my skills.” In 2014, she joined the Somaiya Kala Vidya (SKV) Business and Management for Artisans Course and received her certification in 2015. The SKV jury presented her with an award for the Most Promising Entrepenuer.
BairAj: The Rule of Women
“I always wanted to work in handcrafts which are connected to women. And I really want to take my traditional craft forward in such a very different way. The craft of tie and dye is very rich and unique, so I too am always trying to make things very rich and unique. And even though I am at the starting point of my journey, I have faith in my ability. “BairAj” is the name of my label. It is from my local language “kutchi” and means “the rule of women”. My label is the identity of myself and the identity of my way of thinking.”
I had the good fortune to meet Zakiya at the Tinkuy gathering in Cusco, Peru, this past November where she was an invited artisan. She led her presentation by showing the ancient tie-and-dye traditions of the Peruvian peoples. She ended by telling the artisans, “Don’t forget your tradition.” I don’t think the young artisans who heard her speak will forget her powerful message.
If you’d like to learn more about the Somaiya Kala Vidya or take a workshop yourself, visit them online. Help elevate the artisan sector–share this on.
Thanks to Judy Frater, founder and director of Somaiya Kala Vidya, for introducing us to Zakiya Adil Khatri and many other splendid artisans.