Sindh is a land rich in its share of ethnic handicrafts including the manufacturing of high quality and impressively priced wooden handicrafts, textiles, paintings, handmade paper products, and blue pottery etc.
Lacquered wood works known as jandi, painting on wood, tiles and pottery known as kashi, hand woven textiles including khadi, susi and ajrak are synonymous with Sindhi culture. Hala’s artisans the village potters known as kumhaar across the Indian sub continent are still producing exquisite earthenware.
Kashi, or kas, was formerly the Persian word for all glazed and enamelled pottery irrespectively; now it is the accepted term for certain kinds of enamelled tile-work, including brick-work and tile-mosaic work. In Pakistan the finest examples of kashi work are in the Sindh province. Kashi work consisted of two kinds:
Enamel-faced tiles and bricks of strongly fired red earthenware, or terracotta; Enamel faced tiles and terracotta of lightly fired lime-mortar, or sandstone.
Some authorities describe tile-mosaic work as the true kashi.
The name kas, by which it is known in Arabic and Hebrew, takes us back to the manufacture of glass and enamels for which great Sidon – a city of Phoenicia – was already famous 1500 years before Christ. The designs used in the decoration of Sind and Punjab glazed pottery also go to prove how much these Sindhi wares have been influenced by Persian examples and the Persian tradition of the much earlier art of Nineveh and Babylon. Hyderabad (Sindh), possesses excellent monuments of the best period viz. Those erected during the reigns of Akbar and Jahangir (A.D. 1556-1628). Tile-mosaic work is described by some authorities as the true kashi. From examination of figured tile-mosaic patterns, it would appear that, in some cases, the shaped terracotta had been cut out of enamelled slabs or tiles after firing; in other examples to have been cut into shape before receiving their facing of coloured enamel.
Conventional representations of foliage, flowers and fruit, intricate geometrical figures, interlacing arabesques, and decorative calligraphy – inscriptions in Arabic and Persian – constitute the ordinary kashi designs. The colours chiefly used were cobalt blue, copper blue (turquoise colour), lead-antimoniate yellow (mustard colour), manganese purple iron brown and tin white. However, blue, white and brown are the primary colours used by potters for making these ethnic tiles.
* Photos by the author