Taaro'n ke Darmeyan
HINDI | ENGLISH | URDU
Poster, photographs and production stills from Taaro'n ke Darmeyan.
Taaro’n ke Darmeyan is an intricate visual deep dive into the lives of Muqaish (also known as Kaamdani or Badla work) artisans hailing from Lucknow. This series of photographs is an exploration into gendered workplaces and labour dynamics, showcasing the skilled craftspersonship of both female and male artisans engaged in the art of Muqaish embroidery.
The gold and silver flat metal wire embroidery is a popular technique that was revived during the time of the Nawabs. At the forefront of this exquisite craft are its artisans, their exceptional skill and contribution in keeping this craft alive. However, this remains invisible behind the flare of the sparkling embroidery. Many of these intergenerational artisans learnt the craft from their family members from a young age. However, due to low wages many artisans now hesitate to pass the craft on to their younger generations, inevitably meaning the decline of the artisans and the eventual decline of the craft.
Whenever I entered the homes of Anees, Hina, Nureen, Malka, and Zia, I witnessed a world woven with threads of embroidery, housework, and childcare. Occasionally, I arrived when middlemen exchanged materials or collected finished work which offered these artisans a brief connection with the outside world. The search for more Muqaish work took me to the karkhana where male artisans work, who I’d observe as they interacted with customers, or their young apprentices. This showcased the differences of gendered labour of the skilled craftspersonship of both female and male artisans. It is here, that the significance of showcasing the interaction of these gendered workspaces and labour became a reality for me. Over my next few visits, I spoke to Anees secretly embroidering Muqaish to support her and her son's needs. Yet, she had to abandon it due to eye strain from embroidering in inadequate lighting at night.
Nureen learnt the craft from her mother-in-law, further teaching her daughter Hina. Both Nureen and her mother in law had been supporting the household income through Muqaish at home for years. Now, Hina juggles domestic tasks alongside this work. At times, Hina would get up in the middle of her work, to attend to household chores like making tea, cooking food, or to look after her daughter, while at the karkhana, tea was ordered from outside by the male artisans as they read their morning newspaper, or they went home during lunch. Though the female artisans devote a similar amount of time to Muqaish as male artisans, their identity as homemaker takes precedence over their identity as craftswomen. Despite their contribution to the craft, the work done by female artisans is unjustly perceived as leisure activity or a hobby, impacting their bargaining power.
However, female artisans weave threads of resilience and support each other, assisting one another in work assignments, and ensuring each person has an opportunity to earn. The importance of female friendships is exemplified with artisans frequently gathering together to exchange orders and complete them collectively. Nevertheless, a poignant reality is that numerous female artisans, despite creating this exquisite craft, may never have the opportunity to adorn themselves with their creations.
About the artist
Fatima Juned is a photographer, researcher, and writer from Lucknow. Her interest in documentary photography grew during her college days and she has been clicking photographs ever since. Her work is mostly around the themes of gender, human rights, labour, and culture. Lucknow and its crafts hold a special place in her heart. These crafts were introduced to her by the women in her family, who carefully adorned and treasured them as a way of appreciating the hard work and patience that the artisans put into creating them. As a photographer, she approaches her craft with the same care and admiration, capturing the essence of the city and its magnificent components along the way.