The Centuries-Old Craft of Kashi Kari

The hand painting of ceramics products, particularly pottery and tiles, in stunning shades of blue and turquoise is termed, Kashi Kari. The words can be roughly translated as mosaic art in Persian. This is a centuries-old craft, which is commonly called blue pottery. The art of Kashi Kari is thought to have originated from Kashghar in China as the name suggests. It has thrived for centuries, starting perhaps five thousand years ago. The oldest pieces have been excavated from Mohenjo Daro, which included painted earthen toys and vessels. The Mughals took this art to greater heights and employed it to adorn tombs and palaces. Over time, it became synonymous with Islamic art as Kashigars don’t work with pictorial representations. The influence of Persian culture can be seen from the style of motifs and the almost exclusive use of blue. Kashi Kari is often thought of as the most esteemed craft of Pakistan as it is recognized and appreciated worldwide. The most common Kashi Kari products include flower pots, lampshades, vases, serving dishes, earthenware, dinner sets, pitchers, trays, and soap dishes. 

Each article of blue pottery goes through twenty stages of production and takes about fifteen to twenty days to complete. Kashgar's set about making clay from water and fine-grained soil, which is then checked for impurities. Lumps of clay are then thrown onto the pottery wheel and the artisan molds it into the desired shape while working the wheel with his feet. Next, the shaped clay is baked in a gas furnace for twelve to fourteen hours, with temperatures as high as nine hundred degrees Celsius. Previously, wooden kilns were used for this purpose with high chances of the clay cracking. Now, the procedure is much more sophisticated and efficient. The baked clay is then dried under the sun for two days until it hardens. Finally, the article is painted and glazed over. Kashgar's decorate the pottery in dazzling colors of cobalt blue, turquoise, mustard, purple, brown and white. Cobalt oxide and copper oxide is used to produce the rich blue and green hues. The colors are painted over the ceramic in intricate swirls, flowers, leaves, geometric patterns, and calligraphy. 

Kashi Kari has been prominently used to decorate monuments all over Pakistan. The shrines of Sachal Sarmast and Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Sindh are inlaid with astonishing Kashi Kari tile work, as blue as the sky above. Multan is the cultural center for this craft in Pakistan. The Sawi Mosque and the mausoleum of Hazrat Bahauddin Zakariya are finely decorated with Kashi Kari patterns. 

Like most crafts, Kashi Kari is also in danger of being extinguished. People prefer to buy ornaments with computerized designs and handmade items are going out of demand. Earthenware containers are not used anymore and plastic is taking over for domestic use. It is difficult to find unadulterated raw materials in markets which reduces the quality of Kashi Kari products. Also, artisans are facing extreme difficulties due to the load shedding of gas. 

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