The Kashmiri shawl from Jamavar to Paisley – A many splendoured thing

Hosted by Daily Times Editor Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin, the launch was attended by journalists, academicians, artists, fashion designers and socialites and was held at the swanky Sukh Chain Wellness Club.

A labour of love, the book took three years of painstaking research and documentation to compile and includes a history of the Kashmiri shawl spanning 500 years. Sherry Rehman took the audience on a fascinating and dazzling visual journey of the rise of the shawl in the Mughal era as the garment of choice of kings and noblemen, to the migration of the craft from the hills of Kashmir to the plains of Punjab, to its imitation in the ateliers of Europe, to its eventual decline.

Pointing out the popularity of the garment not only in the courts of the Muslims but also among the Europeans landing on the shores of India, Ms Rehman explained that the Kashmiri productions were the golden item of trade with the West, fetching more bullion to the region than any other product. The appropriation of the industry by the Europeans lent it a death blow but it is also responsible for the modern face of the shawl and its acceptance as an object of international renown. In fact, it was only when European noblewomen took to donning the fashionable shawl some 70 to 80 years ago that the monopoly men had over the garment till then was broken.

t of the pieces illustrated in the book have been culled from private collections. Ms Rehman spoke about the “archival poverty” in the country as an obstacle in her research. Only two samples of Kashmiri shawls are available at the Lahore Museum, and these too, face depredation and neglect to the extent that one of them has been classified wrongly.

Ms Rehman said this was not all about shawls. “The shawl is not really about weather, but much more than that. It is about what the object is.”

She said the object was to unfold the history of shawls from a South Asian perspective. “The other driving reason was that previously there were three major works on shawls from Paris, New York and London but no one from the subcontinent tried to explore the subject. We, who are from this culture and region have not worked on this project.”

She discussed the selective and unique images of shawls from the 16th century to the modern age. She discussed Kani Jamavari, Amlikar, Doshala and a variety of other types of shawls, especially those from the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and ceremonial shawls like Zari/Tilla, which are in fashion nowadays.

Ms Rehman’s presentation was followed by comment from eminent artist and educationist Salima Hashmi, who paid tribute to the generations of master craftsmen responsible for creating the shawls that have come to define our history and heritage. In his brief speech, Bipin Shah of Mapin publications appreciated the authors’ efforts in exploring this history from a South Asian perspective.

The last word had, was by historian Faqir Aijazuddin, who praised the book for its visual mastery, technical soundness and its historical significance.

Valiant journalist, outspoken parliamentarian and dedicated human rights’ activist, Sherry Rehman now has another feather in her cap – triumphant author. Whether you’re an art connoisseur, history buff or associated with the textile industry, it’s a collector’s item. The book is priced at Rs 3,500 in Pakistan by Vanguard Books, which is less than half the price abroad.

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kashmiri shawl

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