On January 20-21 AMHP hosted a 2 day event to study jajam and to introduce and learn from the masters who practised this craft. Participants included textile donors and enthusiasts, faculty from the Institute of Craft & Design (Jaipur) and Banasthali University (Tonk) along with college students and plenty of local children. Most importantly, members of the diverse Rajasthani printing community including block carvers from Jaipur also attended the gathering. Few still print jajam yet most still work in the field.
After an initial tour of the exhibition, the first morning was spent discussing jajam – past, present & future. Seated in the museum courtyard upon floor spreads recently commissioned for the event, artisans reminisced and chatted about a variety of issues while staff recorded their thoughts. A panel discussion covered a number of topics beginning with the customs surrounding the use of jajam to reasons for their decline and lack of relevance in modern India. Questions included: Is there a future for jajam? Can they be adapted for a modern audience? What is the commitment to preserving traditions while seeking creative alternatives? How is it possible to find an audience and spread-the-word? The craftspeople also wondered if the next generation should or could go to design school to further block printing? Of course, all of these topics and more are relevant to the survival of any type of heritage craft.
The second day was action-packed. There was conversation and chai but the museum was also full of laughter as guests of all ages mingled, tried their hand at playing chaupad while little ones mastered the art of designing and printing jajam motifs.
Looking back, perhaps most striking was witnessing the craftsmen’s smile as their work was appreciated, discussed and displayed with their name. Providing a venue for the artisans was an important goal in founding the museum, so their enthusiasm was truly inspirational. The gathering felt like a family reunion since quite a few knew each other and had alot in common to share. For the elders it had the touch of a ‘swan-song’. All in all, it was a lovely weekend to celebrate jajam, craftspeople and, of course, the art of the block!
NOW, don’t miss the exhibition! There’s still plenty of time… Rediscovering Jajam is on all year until 31 December 2018 except for 15 May – 15 July when AMHP closes its door to the public for the Summer.
Text : Suki Skidmore
Photos: AMHP Archives