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Photographic impressions take Lucknow's 'mukaish' art to international shores

By PN Team Posted on Jul, 12 2017

Growing up in Old City, Ahmad said his childhood revolved around these workshops with scores of workers engrossed in their craft.

LUCKNOW: It wasn't like any other photography exhibition. Every picture by this artist photographer was veiled in sheer fabric, adorned by the glint of fine silver and gold wires entwined together.


Visitors at the Indian International Centre in New Delhi were compelled to stop and look closer and deeper into the portrait through the veil of delicate work.

By doing so, the photographer, Lucknow boy Taha Ahmad (22), made sure that the Nawabi-era art of 'mukaish' and its artisans known as Badlas get their due. The craft is not only dying but is also laborious and ill-paying for the workers on ground.


Having received the Neel Dongre Grant/Award for Excellence in Photography 2016 from the India Photo Archive Foundation, Ahmad, who is pursuing his masters in fine arts at Jamia Millia Islamia, is taking Lucknow's dying handicraft to national and international shores through his photography.

After showcasing his work under the grant with the theme 'framing the living traditions' in May, Ahmad will now present his creations and the lesser-known aspect of Lucknow at various other exhibitions.

Among them are Indian Photo Festival in Hyderabad in September, a photography festival in Maribor, Slovenia in September and Eyes on Main Street Wilson Outdoor Photo Festival in North Carolina, USA, in April 2018.

"I worked on the project for more than nine months, getting close to the Badlas who, in their own words, had been trivialised by society at large, left only for their misery to be made fun of.

 It was hard to get in their space initially, but when I did, my outlook to the work and the gruesome conditions they survive in changed," said the young photographer who would travel from Delhi to Lucknow every month to get his production together.

Clicking in black and white, Ahmad makes the fine work glisten and shine through his lens. With it, he captures the catastrophe of an almost lost unique art form.

"There are only some 25 Badlas left in Lucknow now. There were no less than 3,000 such craftsmen in every nook and corner of Old City earlier. What remains now is a workshops each in Husainabad and Saadatganj," he said.

Growing up in Old City, Ahmad said his childhood revolved around these workshops with scores of workers engrossed in their craft.

 With time, however, minimal exposure, loss of scope and poor pay have made artisans refrain from making their children rely on the art for a living. As a result, only a handful of those who know the craft are left.


(With inputs from TOI, PICS: YT, HP, Twitter)

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