Art in Brass

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Pak­istan’s func­tional and dec­o­ra­tive brass­work catches the im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion of lo­cal and for­eign art lovers. For ap­pre­ci­at­ing these brass or­na­ments, one is not re­quired to be an art en­thu­si­ast, as is ev­i­dent from the wide va­ri­ety of these pieces adorn­ing houses and other places.

The de­signs on brass or­na­ments are ei­ther en­graved or em­bossed. These two cat­e­gories are called ‘ khu­dai’ and ‘ naqqashi’. ‘ Naqqashi’ refers to sketch­ing of de­signs with a steel point on the or­na­ments, while ‘ khu­dai’ is the art of scrap­ing the base of the or­na­ment to bring out the pat­tern. These el­e­gant pat­terns on brass are called ‘ mi­nakari’. The use of valu­able stones and ad­di­tion of sil­ver and gold en­hances the beauty of this art.

Pe­shawar’s ‘ Mis­garan Bazaar’ de­serves a wor­thy men­tion, as it is ded­i­cated purely to brass work. The brass mar­kets of Gu­jran­wala, Mul­tan and La­hore have al­ways of­fered brass­ware for house­holds, fes­tiv­i­ties and large scale ex­ports. As part of the tra­di­tional cul­ture of Pak­istan, dec­o­ra­tive brass or­na­ments fea­ture in wed­ding dowries, as serv­ing ‘ tashtaries’ ( plates) for be­tel leaf and are used for sprin­kling of fra­grant rose wa­ter on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. These dec­o­ra­tive or­na­ments re­flect the vi­brant cul­ture of Pak­istan.

Brass trays, lanterns, ash­trays, lime boxes, snuff boxes and to­bacco boxes; all carry en­graved tra­di­tional de­signs. In the ru­ral setup, brass-made agri­cul­tural prod­ucts are pop­u­lar with the farm­ers; the de­signed han­dles and con­tain­ers prove their aes­thetic lik­ing for brass or­na­ments. Or­na­men­tal swords and shields are con­sid­ered as val­ued gifts, par­tic­u­larly sent to friends and fam­i­lies abroad.

How­ever, much of the tra­di­tional brass work has evolved into mod­ern spe­cial­ized designing. In the work of many mod­ern de­sign­ers like Ameen Gul­gee, the bril­liant use of brass sculp­tur­ing tells a pro­gres­sive tale of this grow­ing in­dus­try in Pak­istan. The ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is not just lim­ited to sculp­tural forms. Beau­ti­ful cal­lig­ra­phy done out of metal is a great ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional art of painted cal­lig­ra­phy.

Brass takes an edge in the dec­o­ra­tion mar­ket due to com­pet­i­tive prices as com­pared to sil­ver and cop­per. The metal gives the look of an­tique beauty, at­tract­ing more buy­ers

The in­no­va­tion in evolved brass lamps, dec­o­ra­tive fur­ni­ture and ob­jects of daily use be­ing cre­ated by am­a­teurs calls for a bet­ter en­tre­pre­neur­ial setup. Many fine arts schools in Pak­istan of­fer brass designing as a com­pul­sory area of study. It is good to see an in­ter­est­ing area emerg­ing in designing from the rich tra­di­tion of Mughal em­per­ors and war­riors

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