Chitarkari - Slate carving 1993-2006
My individual identity is what my parents gave me and it is found in the ancient craft called chitarkari found in the cemeteries of Gangar range in Hazara, N.W.F.P.
Chitarkari is the identity of the people of Gangar hills and in the process of exploring, promoting its ‘respect , this ancient craft has become my identity too. I had childhood memories of playing in the cemeteries of my parents’ village Sirikot in the Gangar hills, in the North West Frontier province. By 1990 it was at the verge of extinction. I helped the craftsmen to find new market for this craft by designing different furniture items, promoted its respect so that the villagers start using it and explored it as a medium of my art.
While working with the chitarkars I wanted to pick the hammer and chisel and work myself. My very first piece was a tombstone of a woman, questioning the absence of figurative art in majority of Islamic folk art where humans are only represented by symbols, I portrayed a woman with flowing hair. It was a smaller replica of the stately uneven ancient tombstones. Later on I used to draw for the craftsmen who would carve out my designs, but I did not feel a sense of ownership and felt guilty that my work fetched ten times more than the craftsman. This is how the market works but I wanted to do the carving myself, it is hard, physical work and time consuming but at the end of the day it is my own.