The family of late Mohamad Siddique Khatri has been practicing the art of hand printed, natural dyed ajrakh for at least ten generations. The Khatri dyers migrated from Sindh at the invitation of the King of Kutch about 400 years ago. They settled in Dhamadka because the village had a flowing river, required for natural dyeing. Over time, natural dyes were replaced by easier to use, cheaper synthetic dyes. But Mohamad Siddique understood their value and taught natural dyeing techniques to his three sons. In the early 1990s, when the international market was favorable, he was instrumental in reviving natural dyeing.
Dhamadka was destroyed twice by earthquakes. After the earthquake of 2001, community members decided to relocate farther west, near Bhuj. Ismail Mohamad Khatri, Mohamad Siddique's son, spearheaded establishing the new village, which was named Ajrakhpur after their traditional product. About 40% of the village now produces natural dyed, hand printed fabrics.
Juned, Ismailbhai's son, entered the family business when he was seventeen. A year later, in 2005, he took the pilot course in design at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. He wanted to learn more about the mind of the buyer, and to explore contemporary innovation.
“At KRV I learned to appreciate my heritage. One teacher asked why I am not wearing my own work and I thought of making a line of shirts. I received an order for 20 m of the cloth I used. I gained confidence and learned to present my design ideas,” he said.
Juned and his brother Sufiyan quickly learned the management as well as technical aspects of a business that has grown enormously over the years. Today the family is a key producer of hand printed, natural dyed fabrics, supplying to major design houses in India and abroad. Juned has become an artist in his own right. His collections have been shown in Mumbai and purchased by designers and visitors from around the world. In 2011, he accompanied his father to the ISEND natural dye conference in France. Last year, he conducted workshops in Ajrakhpur for students of Pearl Academy Delhi, and then went to Delhi to demonstrate for the greater student body.
“I am very lucky to be part of a family whose work is known around the world," he says. "My dream is to follow in my father’s footsteps.”