BY TAHA AHMAD
MMukaish Badla is a form of embroidery that reached its peak in 18th century Lucknow. The art form travelled to different parts of the world, but is now restricted to a few narrow lanes of the old city. It was introduced by the Nawabs to beautify “chikankari” but Mukaish became an independent style. It initially used precious metals like gold and silver to make metallic wires. The artisans are the Badlas who insert thin gold and silver wire into fabric, eventually twisting it to create intricate patterns.
Sabir Hussein, 75, who has practised this craft for 65 years says they make just 200 rupees from a ten-hour day. Lucknow once had more than 3,000 badlas, but now the number has come down to 20-25, all elderly and in declining health.
These artisans are one of the unknown treasures of the Indian craft world but unless they find a way to pass on their life’s work they are in danger of becoming a footnote in the history of Lucknow.
Taha Ahmad is a documentary photographer based in Delhi. His Mukaish project is under a Neel Dongre Grant for Excellence in Photography. He is mentored by Sandeep Biswas, a Delhi based photographer.
(The photo story of the June 2017 edition of Fountain Ink.)