One has to just step out into the streets of Lahore to find an assortment of unique Pakistani art and craftwork. This Pakistani art contributed by myriad nameless artisans from all over the country can be viewed as our nation’s pride. While countries all over the world flaunt their culture, we do not give ours the importance which is its due. Let’s take some time to get better acquainted with the wide array of arts and crafts found in Pakistan.
We’ll start our journey in the mountainous northern regions of Pakistan, where the cities of Peshawar and Swat emerge as significant generators of Pakistani culture. Here, our most celebrated art forms come to the fore. Brass work is on top of all handicrafts of Peshawar, which is an art practiced in many regions around the country notably Lahore and parts of Sindh. Brass work involves the engraving of various shapes and patterns onto brass items using the traditional methods of naqqashi (sketching) and khudahi (scraping). The end result is without doubt appealing to the eye. Swat is famous for its woven textiles and embroidered products. While weaving is carried out in many major cities, Swat, in particular, is a long established weaving centre whose blankets are mentioned even in early Buddhist texts. Swat has also retained its traditional form of embroidery which is probably the most creative and colourful needle artwork found in Pakistan. Pakistani stone craft also has ties with the north. Here, in cities such as Haripur, marble, sandstone, and onyx are common materials worked upon to produce a wide range of stone crafted items. These stone products take days to complete and require immense precision and skill from the craftsmen. Taxila is the heart of stone craftwork in Pakistan. This art, which has been present since ages, can be seen on many major landmarks of the country, notably the pietra dura work in the Lahore Fort’s Sheesh Mahal.
We move south to the vast plains of Punjab, a region blooming with culture. There is a large market for handicrafts in the cities of Multan, Lahore and Taxila, among others. A wide variety of materials is made use of in this region from stone and wood, to camel-skin and ivory. Lahore’s inner city can itself be viewed as one big artistic wonder. Many crafts have their roots deep in Lahore, which have been flourishing and expanding since the Mughals set up their stronghold here. Metalwork is one of those crafts, along with pottery. Statuettes and models of various aspects of Pakistani culture are a common sight in Lahore. Anarkali is a popular spot if one wishes to buy such heritage ornaments, which include small models of tongas, huqqas (smoking pipe), pankhas (fan) and many others. There is even a working model of a nalka (hand pump) in some stores which is truly an eye-catcher.
Multan will be our next stop, a city which can be considered as the chief handicrafts market of the country. We’ll start with the camel skin craft and ivory work done in Multan. Camel skin is cleaned, dried and mounted onto molds which can be of any shape desired.
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