Crafts in Architecture

Crafts in Architecture

A number of historical buildings in Pakistan display fine work in fresco done by artists several centuries ago. The ceiling and upper portions of the walls of the ante-chambers at Emperor Jehangir's Tomb in Lahore are wholly covered with decorative paintings and no visitor to the Wazir Khan Mosque can fail to appreciate the exquisite carpet-like patterns painted on the interior of its domes. This craft, called naqqashi and kamangari, also flourished between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries and was perfected by artists working in Thatta, Lahore, Chiniot and Hyderabad.

During the British period most of the artisans were forced to look for alternative means of livelihood. However, those who persevered in the family tradition found an opportunity to utilise their skills when restoration of old monuments was taken up some years ago. While genuine naqqashi is done with watercolours on freshly laid lime plaster, quite often the artisans are required to work on old surfaces and then they use oil paints. In the past they made their own brushes (qalams) of goat's hair for broad strokes and squirrel's hair for fine work, and used vegetable colours. Now some of them have begun to depart from the tradition by using imported brushes and synthetic dyes. Another indigenous tradition is the use of milk and curd, in addition to water, in the preparation of lime paste. One a small-scale naqqashi is also done on wooden panels.

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