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January 30, 2017

Exquisite Block Printing from the hinterlands of Madhya Pradesh

Master artisan Mohammed Yunus Khatri from Bagh in one of his master creations.

The only thing synonymous with Bagh other than some of its historical sites are its master printers, even Wikipedia lists only two people as notable people from Bagh - Mohammed Yusuf Khatri and his son Bilal, we were lucky enough to meet both.

The Khatri family have been practicing the craft of hand-block printing for many generations. Their roots can be traced back to Sindh, from where they moved to Marwar (they still speak a bit of marwari) and Manawar before making Bagh their home.

Bagh Hand Block Printing

Bagh is a small town in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, surrounded by various historical sites such as the Malwa Forts, Bhoj Shala and home to the famous Bagh Caves. The town gave Mohammed's father - Ismail Sulemanji Khatri, what every artist needs to fill his canvas - inspiration and the right resources in the form of an abundant supply of water for his printing work.

Bagh Hand Block Printing

His father is credited with having brought many of the local adivasis settled in Bagh, back into the craft (many of them were practicing the same originally but had left due to the rise in synthetics). "My father would bring very old blocks and research new motifs, his understanding of standardizing the two basic colors: Alzarin and Black is what has given Bagh prints their unique identity today" says Mohammed.

The family has always tried to move out of their comfort zone and experimented on various types of materials, from Bamboo chiks to leather. It is this curiosity and hunger that has won them so many National Awards. In 1982, his father printed a bedsheet using 1400 blocks earning the family their first National Award.

Old Bagh Printing Wooden Blocks

The uniqueness of Bagh prints lie in their very neat printing and the use of limited colors. The prints will almost appear printed by a machine!

When we ask Mohammedji what inspires him and drives him he says, "You have to think positively, good thoughts lead to good work."

Seeing his prints, we could not agree more.

Fine Bagh Printing