The Keeper of Bela’s Block Printing History

Art history/ Historiography, Craft, Handloom, Art

The Keeper of Bela’s Block Printing History

D’Costa, Annabelle

Issue #007, Winter, 2021                                                                       ISSN: 2581- 9410 Story: It’s the rhythmic ‘thak-thak’ sound of the wooden block being hit on the fabric to ‘stamp’ the pattern, that will guide you to Khamir’s Bela Printing studio. It’s persistent and considered, interwoven with the equally dogged drone of the weaving looms that permeate life on the campus. When you ultimately get there, you’ll see a block printer, painfully scrawny and impossibly gnarled, bent over a long table spread with a beige cloth. He certainly looks suited to his trade, using astonishing muscle memory to stand with his back bent for hours while printing a block design from left to right on a piece of fabric. The whole time you watch, he barely flinches. That’s Mansukh Pitambar Khatri, a Hindu Khatri and the last custodian of Bela printing, a style of block printing that takes its name from the quaint town of Bela in Bhuj. "My fascination with Bela printing began at an early age,” Mansukh passionately begins to tell us about his craft. “As a child, I would spend most of my time carefully watching my elder brother print over textiles. Even today, I distinctly remember how the entire process, that of stamping dye-dipped wooden blocks onto fabric, would fascinate me, and not just the results,” he tells us of his early encounter...
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