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Okair Sazi: The Traditional Paper Cut Work of Multan

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Masood Akhtar ‘Okairsazi’ ABSTRACT This present research focuses on one of the craft of Multan which is known as Okair Sazi, the traditional paper cut work of Multan. This is delusively known as indigenous craft of Multan that represents the rich culture and tradition. This craft started centuries ago in China. The known chain of its craftsmen of Multan is linked only to the past century. It is said that this craft reached to the Multan through Pathan craftsmen who came to this area of southern Punjab during Afghan invasions, but careful study tells the different story about the origin of this craft.

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This research paper will also discuss the technique, importance and the use of different material in this craft. The paper leads you from the origin to the current changes and developments in this craft as its importance is a necessary part of decoration of other handicrafts is certain. Crafts are as old as human history. Originally fulfilling utilitarian purposes, they are now a means of producing objects of intrinsic aesthetic appeal.

Among the earliest basic crafts are basketry, weaving, and pottery. Nearly every craft now practiced can be traced back many hundreds or even thousands of years. Craft is the true courier of any specific culture and tradition. It reflects the creativity through the conception and production of individual works. It shows a creativity and skill of craftsman with visual sensitivity and working knowledge of tools and material2. 1 2 Linnea D Leedham. “Crafts. ” Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008. http://www. craftandculuture. org. com (Accessed on February 14 2013) Multan is the third largest city of Pakistan by area and fifth largest city by population.

Multan is one of the oldest cities not only in Asia but also all over the world. 3 It is usually known as the City of Saint’s (because of large number of shrines here), mangos and cotton. The city is full of bazaars, shrines and tombs. The famous shrines in Multan are of Shah-Rukn-i-Alam, Bahudin Zakriya and Shah Shams Tabriz. It is a commercial and industrial centre in Southern Punjab and especially famous for its handicrafts. Multan is reputed for its exceptional handicrafts. The history of Multani arts and crafts also goes back to the medieval period.

These handicrafts are not only liked in Pakistan, moreover sustaining the prosperity of Pakistan by exporting these handicrafts throughout the world. For the reason these handicrafts carry the devotion and care that makes each piece a master piece; having the quality that is unmatched and leads up to display the “strange power4”. These handicrafts comprise hand painted camel skin objects, Okair sazi associated with khussa (Local embroided shoe) making. In ancient times Ivory and now camel bone jewelry and artifacts, lamp shades, hand knotted carpets, metals and leather crafts are worth seeing.

Multan is producer of finest cotton cloth as well as Lunges’ and bedspreads as compared to the produce anywhere in the world. Multani Okairsazi is echo down tradition of Chinese paper cut work, which was evolved with the invention of paper by Cai Lun in Eastern Han Dynasty in China. Chinese Paper Cutting or Jianzhi, is the first type of paper-cutting design. The art form later spread to other parts of the world with different regions adopting their own nomenclature and cultural styles. Because the cut outs are also used to decorate 3 http://www. hamaramultan. com/history. sp (Accessed on February 14 2013) [ Old English cr? ft “strength, power” < Germanic] 4 doors and windows, they are sometimes referred to “chuang hua”, meaning Window Flower. Paper is a kind of material which mildews and rots easily. In the southeast of China, it usually rains in May and June, which makes paper mildew and rot quickly. As a result, people in southeast didn’t keep them, and it is hard to find paper-cutting from that time. On the contrast, the weather in the northwest of China is usually dry, which makes it possible to find paper-cutting made in the Northern Dynasties in Turpan, Sinkiang province.

When paper-cutting passed down to the Tang Dynasty, the skills of handcraft became mature. Paper-cutting was not only a kind of handcraft, but also a piece of artwork, as it could express the idea through the pattern. In Ming and Qing Dynasty, paper-cutting experienced its peak development. Folk paper-cutting spread to a wider range and had abundant means of artistic expression. Paper-cutting was used to decorate doors, windows and walls to show happiness and festival. In Persia it is known as Monabbatkari, the earliest datable example of Persian paper cut-work is to be found on the doubler of an anthology made for Sultan A? ad Jalayer in Baghdad in 809/1406-07, it was derived from earlier Mamluk prototypes in both style and technique. One example of Persian cut calligraphy combined with cut designs is known, an anthology (safina or bayaz) in the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. It contains five miniatures attributable stylistically to Shiraz ca. 1540 and seven pages of mixed cut designs that must have been executed at the same time and place. On folio 113b there are three roundels arranged vertically; the top one frames a scene of two seated men, one handing the other a cup, the other wo qe?? as on scrolls with arabesque leaves (rumi); the original gold paper cut-outs, set on dark-blue backgrounds, are now discoloured bronze. On a second folio there are cutouts of trees, two deer, and birds in black, on a blue ground, with a painted figure defending himself from an attacking bear. 5 In the 1600s, it spread to Europe where it became particularly popular throughout its Jewish communities. Polish peasants, who had a tradition of decorating their cottages with hand-painted or stencilled motifs, began using them to create colorful cut-outs, which is known as Wycinanki.

Historical evidence suggests that Vytynanky began to be made in Ukraine at the end of the fifteenth- early sixteenth century, but it took quite some time before they became an integral part of the decorative arts practiced at the grass roots level. During the nineteenth century decorative paper cut-outs spread all across the Ukrainian countryside. 6 The art tradition was founded in Switzerland and Germany in the 16th century. Scherenschnitte, which means “scissor cuts” in German, is the art of paper-cutting design. The art work often has symmetry within the design, and common forms include silhouettes, valentines, and love letters.

Later it was brought to Colonial America in the 18th century by immigrants who settled primarily in Pennsylvania. 7 Multan is famous for its craft of embroidered leather Khussa. Okair Sazi is among the crafts which support other lather crafts. ‘Okairsazi’ is a combination of two different words belonging to different languages. ‘Okair’ is said to be a Siraki word 5 http://www. iranicaonline. org/articles/cut-paper-qeta-decoupage-also-monabbat-kari-filigree-work-a-typeof-applied-ornament-documented-in-persian-manu 6 http://www. polskiinternet. com/english/info/artpaper. html 7 http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Scherenschnitte#mw-navigation hich means “To Emboss”, but after undergoing the Siraiki language no word is spoken in this regard, but while consulting Sanskrit or Hindi dictionary one can find a similar word ‘aa-kaar’ and corruptly spoken as ‘akaar’ which means “form” or “appearance”8. So it can be understood that, with the diction in Saraiki, it took its final form of ‘Okair’ and Sazi is a Persians word means ‘to make’. So with the combination of these two words it turned into a clear-cut terminology for Khussa decoration pattern making process. Okair, this term also refers to transfer design which is prepared on a paper using sharp flattened toe needle (Aar).

Sharp needles of different size are used to create delicate floral motifs and designs. These needles are ranging from 1 mm to 5mm in width. The design or imprint is made by precise pencil sketch on 30-40 sheet paper per pads. The design is then pierced with sharp needle, after the cut work is complete; it is then pasted on the ‘upper’ of the shoe (Khussa). (Figure 1) Thus the imprint is followed by embroider (Karhaai Wala) to execute delicate needlework to embellish the footwear with special threads called “Tilla” which is made of metallic foil or sometimes with pure gold or silver. (Figure 2)

Ustad Niaz Ahmed (Figure 3) is known as the pioneer of this craft. He has given new life to this supportive craft about 50 years ago, when he migrated from K. P. K (formally N. W. F. P). As it was mentioned earlier that Okairsazi was used in process work of Khusa making. He exhibited his dexterity to world by opening new dimensions. Previously “Okair Sazi”, was merely a supporting craft which was practiced at home by women belonged to cobbler (mochi) families, but with his 8 John Shakespear. “Dictionary. ” John shakespear’s Dictionary; Urdu-English and English-Urdu. Lahore: Sang-eMeel Publications, 2002. 114. reative impulse, he turned into a new craft. He used this expertise in such creative way to embellish Holy Quran titles, perforated poetry verses, quotations, invitation cards and even portraits. Later he introduced letter pads and book titles not only with made with paper but also with leather, artificial leather, plastic and tissue paper. Only few tools are required for this craft: ‘Aar’, Sharp needles of assorted sizes ranging from 1mm to 5mm. (Figure 4) ‘Watti’ Grinding stone to sharpen the needles ‘Aar’ ‘Angothi’ Thumb guard made of leather (Figure 4) ‘Mudhi’ soft wood (Eucalyptus or Pine) log (Figure 4)

Material: Paper of assorted types, colors and thickness, tissue paper to leather and hardboards of any size. There are different techniques of okair making. Paper folding is most important: For symmetrical designs paper has to be folded to make mirror image. For tile design motifs or patterns or corner designs paper has to be four folded. For letterheads or corner design papers are staked in pads and fixed with clips to prevent from moving. For intricate and asymmetrical designs paper is not folded. If okair is executed on thin papers then few sheets can be padded to make more copies of the same design.

First of all a precise and careful design or khaka is drawn on paper using a pointed soft pencil by the master craftsman. Lines of various thicknesses are drawn to mark the design readable for the craftsmen who execute the Okair. For Okairsazi, paper is placed on wooden log while the flat side faced up and tilted at the angle of 45 degrees directly facing towards craftsman, while sitting on floor in cross legged position the craftsman holds Aar in his hand between index and ring finger and supporting the toe of the aar with the thumb of other hand guarded with finger guard ‘Angothi’ made of leather.

Pushing the aar with the pressure of palm the craftsman perks the design on paper with countless repeated pressing motions. He uses different needles ‘Aar’ of various sizes according to the restriction of space of design. After hours of strenuous physical and determined mental labor the cutout design appears on paper, which is finely edged with no traces of any recklessness. (Figure 5) Sitting position is important and plays a critical role in Okairsazi (Figure 6). No matter for how long a craftsman work he has to sit in cross legged position.

So it became tiring but the dedication and sincerity with his work to create marvels of aesthetic pleasure as well as utilitarian pieces, he bears all. When the final piece is ready he just forgets his anguish and ready to work again on a new design. Haq Nawaz (Figure 7) is a brilliant shagird Ustad Niaz Ahmed. He mastered in this craft after spending 25 years under the supervision of his Ustad. During his studentship he not only extended his obedience, respect and sincerity but also devotionally worked for long hours.

As a skilled and inventive craftsman he virtually applied this craft to garnish different crafts objects made with not only paper but also with leather as well as synthetic materials. This craft is not now merely associated with Khusa making but, also shaping up as an independent craft which is no longer dependent as other craft process. In this regard Craft Galleria Multan utilized his dexterity and produced unique pieces (Figure 8). The Craft Galleria innovatively utilized this craft form on different materials like, Paper Mache, leather and vinyl sheets.

The same Okair pieces are embellished with Naqashi motifs, which are highly prized as well as priced. He has exhibited his work in numerous exhibitions in Pakistan and abroad. Presently he is working at Multan Craft Bazar (A hub of crafts and artisans), Multan, running under the management of Multan Crafts Council. Cut-Paper craft or Okairsazi has a great potential. If we compare the standard of our craftsmen we can easily say they are as equal in dexterity, but lacking in drawing skills and repetition of design making this craft unpopular amongst new generation of craftsmen.

Right now in Pakistan there is no such institution or centre where this craft is taught. Ustad Haq Nawaz is the only torch bearer of this craft in Multan with only one pupil. Now Khusa making has become mechanized and embroidery is done with machine so this craft is now dying. It is need of the time that, this craft should be given due importance and should be taught in art colleges on academic bases, which can elevate its standard as well as techniques and material experimentations. Bibliography http://www. hamaramultan. com (accessed 2 14, 2013). http://www. raftandculture. org. com (accessed 2 14, 2013). http://www. iranicaonline. org/articles/cut-paper-qeta-decoupage-also-monabbat-karifiligree-work-a-type-of-applied-ornament-documented-in-persian-manu (assessed 4 13, 2013) http://www. polskiinternet. com/english/info/artpaper. html (assessed 4 13, 2013) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Scherenschnitte#mw-navigation (assessed 4 13, 2013) Leedham, Linnea D. “Crafts. ” Microsoft Encarta 2009. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2009. Shakespear, John. “Dictionary. ” John shakespear’s Dictionary; Urdu-English and English-Urdu.

Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2002. 114. Figure 1 Traditional Okair made for Khusa Figure 2 Use of Okair to embroider the Khusa. Okair Lines and cut work guide the Embroider to make his stitch. Traces of Okair can be clearly seen. Figure 3 Ustad Niaz working on his Okair Figure 4 Tools used in Okairsazi, Aar and Angothi Figure 5 Okairsaz using tool with the support of Angothi Figure 6 Okairsaz at work. Note the sitting position and use of tool Figure 8 Okairsaz Showing his recient masterpiece. Notice the delicate cut-work without any trace of carelessness. Figure 8 Modern Use of Okair

Cite this Okair Sazi: The Traditional Paper Cut Work of Multan

Okair Sazi: The Traditional Paper Cut Work of Multan. (2016, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/okair-sazi-the-traditional-paper-cut-work-of-multan/

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