Tucked away in the narrow lanes of Damar Galli near Mohammad Ali Road is a renewed block printing unit called Pracheen. The workshop and store of the only block printing unit of Mumbai which uses natural dyes is spread across a space of 2,200 square feet, and is regularly visited by renowned designers like Tarun Tahiliani, Yohji Yamamoto and Donna Karan from DKNY.
Prachen is run by Ahmed Khatri, 63, who is a fourth generation block printer along with his son Sarfraz Khatri, 39. For the past 100 years, Pracheen has been producing block printed silk sarees, stoles, shawls, dupattas, fabrics by the metre on natural silk fabrics. They have carried on with the ancient Indian tradition of printing using vegetables, herbals, minerals and insect substances in contrast to artificial synthetic chemicals.
In today’s times, as many people have diverted to digital printing, screen printing and rotary printing, Pracheen has always kept block printing alive. Their karkhana is chock-a-block with over one lakh blocks counting a few of them around 90 years old.
“I still have ancestral blocks,” Ahmed Khatri tells me.
There are 13 stages of block printing and it takes nearly two months for a six metre cloth to be printed. For the past 30 years, Pracheen has only been using natural dyes, indigo and mehendi and sap sourced from across the country.
Rashi Arora is a freelance documentary photographer and writer based in Mumbai, India.
All images used have been provided by the author.