In 2000 BC, some four thousand years ago lived the Indus Valley Civilization, a community of the first modern, sophisticated and civilized people known to mankind. Their beautiful pots and lavishly decorated clothes were their pride. Through some act of God, that civilization was destroyed altogether and today we have discovered their remains. While no one knows what happened, we have found out that before they vanished beneath the ground, they left their craft behind which is still alive in the same authentic manner that it was forty centuries ago. Similar prints were also found in other archeological discoveries, most noticeable of which was the cape on the throne of Tutankhamen (1324 BC) discovered during the excavation of the Valley of Kings by Theodore Davis from 1905 to 1914.
Azraq (the ancient name of the more commonly known Ajrak) is an ancient art of decorating and processing a piece of cotton cloth where it goes through twenty seven different and complex stages in seven days before the piece is finally completed. The cloth is first formed using pulled strings from hand picked cotton, assembled into a cloth using the oldest fabric machine known to mankind - The wooden khaddi. The cloth is then drapped in camel fat to give it its' unique texture and preserve it from corrosion. It is then washed and beaten with river water for seven hours straight. Then it goes through several stages of manual block printing including a point where parts of the patterns are covered with a special mud (multani mitti) and camel dung to brighten it's colors. In the end they are cooked in boiling water before being dried and then washed again for several hours using river water over a river bank. After reading this you might be of the impression that this is a luxury good and might be selling for thousands of dollars but the truth is quite the opposite: If we say that this might be the most underrated and underpriced art in the world, we might not be wrong. The Azraq cloth is sold by these craftsmen at a wholesale price ranging between five to eight dollars and resold in the market from ten to thirty dollars.
In our visit to Tando Muhammad Khan and Haala (centers of Azraq craftsmanship) we found ourselves in tears at the conditions in which these artists were working and the daily problems they were facing. We saw people who had lost all thier senses due to poverty, we saw a man whose wife and daughter had died of cancer just because he did not have the money for the treatment! We saw a man with half of his body paralyzed yet, working to provide bread and butter for his family and we found out that most of them had serious bone and joint diseases because of sitting in the same position for 10-14 hours straight. The average income of these amazing people is under 80 dollars per month! Alongside that they support their families, averaging from 4 to 5 members; All this whilst being 205 dollars below the international poverty line.
With no government support, the community is shrinking and we estimate that there are only 150 to 200 Azraq artisans left in the world today. The modern artists are commonly digital artists who have recently discovered the empowering potential of blockchain where they are making money by minting their art pieces as NFTs-Non Fungible Tokens (click to read my article about NFTs).
One of the projects of our company The BIG. Ventures, is NUDA (NFTs for Underrated and Deserving Artists) where we use the amazing skills of poverty stricken and deserving artists from around the world to creates NFTs and then we use the generated capital to support, uplift and modernize these communities. Our upcoming NFT Collection, iNFiniTy (used to fund the expansion of the company) will be featuring Azraq art and will enable us to see through all of our future plans and projects such as NUDA, DIPHY (Digital Physical Integration) and NFT Charity.
There is no need for a miracle to change the lives of these artists. What they do is already no less than a miracle. The world needs to realize it!