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Whenever we call the name of Multan, the first things click to our mind is Art and Craft. This city is rich with artists who carry the oldest history of art and still into it. The area “Kaman Gara” in Multan is the basic hub of arts and crafts activities where we can see the bundles of artistic items which instantly grab the attention and appreciation. Various style of art is in practice there in which includes Kashi Kari, Kundan Kari, metalwork, mirror work, Khussa making, kasheeda Kari, chubh Kari, meena-kari, pottery, naqashi, and camel skin making. The artists over there make incredible handmade items. Each type of art is worth full and has a different history which needs to be described. While here we are going to put some light on camel skin crafts which too has a wide and oldest history.
Well, art in Multan has thousands of years of history, and this city is known for traditional art around the globe. While enlightens bit on the history that, when Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered the Multan in 712 A.D he had some Kashi artist with him, which later educated others about this art and so on. Despite, camel skin crafts have not been invented at that time, it too has the oldest history and been practiced in different countries but not here in Pakistan.
It was the invention of the famous artist of his times Ustaad Muhammad Abdullah Naqash. He was born in 1898 in the city of artists and served a lot through his skills and made the extraordinary artistic items which were the example itself. He also transferred his skills to others by educating them the tricks and techniques and helped to keep the art alive. In 1910, he had introduced the lamp made of camel skin and got a lot of appreciation on this invention. At this effort, he has been awarded a gold medal for the first time by the Nawab of Bahawalpur. Moreover, he has also been awarded Gold Medal from the British government in 1936 for making amazing pieces of camel skin, and this journey of appreciation didn’t stop here as he got a lot of awards for that. Later, he converted his talent and skills to his son Muhammad Ashiq Naqash, who also served a lot and continued it by educating people and his son. Currently, the third generation of this family is serving right now and doing amazing work in this field. The grandson of the inventor Abdul Rehman Naqash is making the country proud by carrying the old tradition and art of his family.
Moreover, Abdul Rehman Naqash has won bundles of awards from Pakistan and also from other countries. He used to attend workshops in various countries and educate people about this art of camel skin crafts. Rehman has done multiple tasks regarding this field of art, but right now, he is continuing the camel skin crafts making and designing.
Earlier, camel skin had been used to make items used in the warlike handles of swords, sword cover, and containers to save oil, crockery, and water containers. People used camel skin containers to save liquids while traveling as mud containers were not that reliable. There is the area in Multan name Cup Bazar which was famous for camel skin crafts and it still exists. Well, by the time people stopped making such items of camel skin which are in regular use as it was replaced by other items like plastic or glass. Hereafter, the importance of camel skin crafts is still there, and now it has been used to make decorative items like flower pots, lamps, jewelry boxes, lamps shades, stationary boxes and vases which itself have its dignity. Hence, many of the families of Multan are still living on this art of camel skin crafts, and the generations are carrying the tradition.
The making of camel skin crafts requires time, and the designing or naqashi on it requires a lot of attention. It is the process which needs three people Naqash, Clayman, and dabgar, their efforts and skills make a raw material into a unique yet durable item. On the question of camel skin craft making process Abdul Rehman Naqash said, “A Naqash designs the product and delivers it to Clayman who molds the clay according to the required design and sends it to Dabgar who does the job of removing hair and flesh from the camel skin and making a number of skin layers after cleaning it. He wraps the wet skin onto the clay mold, and the joints in the skin naturally mix after being dried for two days.” Southern Punjab has the perfect weather conditions for making Camel Skin crafts, which you can say they are blessed with it, as weather conditions do effects the making of camel skin crafts.
Firstly, the question arises that how they get the basic item camel skin? Do they harm an animal for making products? Is it cruel free or not?
Well, Multan is located near a desert which is the Cholistan. The Cholistan is a place with wide deserts and people out there still use camels for traveling, and there is a frequency of camels at there. The weather of Cholistan is quite hot and dry due to which camels often died. So, when the camel dies, the owner makes a profit by selling the skin to the artists. On the other side, every year on the event of Eid-ul-Azha people sacrifice camels, and later the skin got sold out to the artist. So here they get the camel skin without harming the animal intentionally.
Initially, they clean out the skin and remove all the hairs and wash it with a chemical to make it germ-free. The cleaning process has the stages that they often clean, which eliminates a few layers of the skin. The reason of removing few layers is to make it translucent so that it can be used for lamps and can allow the light reflected into it, plus it also gives the smooth surface which makes the Naqashi easier.
The Clay man makes a raw base of clay and fixes the camel skin on to it, then leave it for days to let it dry naturally under the sun. After drying the Clayman uses a mold to make the desired shape and handed over to the Naqash for painting.
Well, the painting or Naqashi step is a crucial one which requires a lot of attention that a single mistake can ruin the whole piece. The Naqash uses lacquer paints and draws the floral or geometric patterns which portray the oldest Persian and Mughal heritage. The vibrant colors adopted by the artists make it more attractive.
The camel skin crafts last for 50 to 100 years, which requires varnish and lacquer on each step. Before investing into it, buyers make sure that it would last for years or you can say for a lifetime. The varnishing enhances its shine and durability, but it too should maintain in harsh weather conditions.
This is the fact that Pakistan is rich with such art and people from other countries admire this art too, but due to the war on terror from the last couple of years, there is a downfall of tourists. The tourists brought these pieces to their countries, which promotes our culture. There is much demand for camel skin crafts in Europe and Gulf countries, but there is a lack of facilities to export such items. These artists also demand that the government should consider the art and heritage sector and provide more grounds to younger people who can practically adopt this art and pursue it as their future. The hundred years of art and culture should be promoted and encouraged at a huge level and make profits by exporting around the world.