KARACHI: It seemed like all the traditional crafts Sindh is known for, including its music and food, could suddenly be accessed at the lawns of the Mohatta Palace Museum in the shape of Sindh Indigenous and Traditional Crafts Company’s (Sitco) three-day Craft Mela, which opened here on Friday.

People were not just buying the beautiful handicrafts, they were also taking selfies with the things in the background. There was a group of students at one stall in bright silver Sindhi caps all trying to fit into a selfie frame. But when asked how much they had bought the caps for, they only shrugged before returning the caps back to the salesman. “I think I’m going to charge everyone who does that Rs100 per photograph,” laughed Wazir Ali, who said he had come from Matiari.

The caps were priced from as low as Rs400 to as expensive as Rs2,000. “It takes around four months to make the caps. All are made completely by hand,” Wazir Ali said.

Meanwhile, three artisans sitting around a tree were busy making khais on their handlooms. Sayani Khatoon, her son Shahid Hussain and their friend Rasool Bakhsh from Khairpur, all made different colour khais. “It takes five to six days to complete a single piece,” said Sayani Khatoon while also bringing out a pretty chador with an embroidered border. “I also made this all by myself,” she beamed with pride. The khais was priced at Rs2,000 a piece.

There were also duree from Badin in two varieties priced at Rs8,000 and Rs18,000. From Daulatpur, Shaneela and Maqbool had brought bags, purses and ralli. Though the bags costing between Rs400 to Rs1,500 were quite reasonably priced, the ralli prices started at Rs5,000 and went up to Rs25,000. “Appliqué work involves a lot of wastage of cloth. It also takes a lot of time,” explained Maqbool to justify the prices.

Tie and dye chunri suits and dupatta were another attraction for the ladies at the mela. Rab Dino Khatri and his sister-in-law Shamim, from Badin, said that they were made by the womenfolk in their area. There was also a natural dye expert there, but from Kehror Pakka near Multan. Fayaz Ali Soomro uses natural indigo, jaggery, alum, katha, etc, to create dyes. He had also brought with him to display the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz awarded to him by the Government of Pakistan in recognition of his work.

When speaking of Sindhi crafts, you just cannot leave out Hala furniture. Apart from the wooden chairs and beds with pretty legs, Abdullah Vighamal had also brought wooden toys such as spinning tops. “But the children here don’t seem to know how to play with a top,” said Abdullah. “Their parents had to show them how they used to play with these toys when they were children for them to discover the joy and buy a piece from us,” the salesman from Hala shared.

Other attractions included terracotta pottery, blue pottery, traditional bangles, ajrak, block prints, good old food and music. Famous folk artists, including Mai Dahi, Akhtar Chanal and Rajab Sohrab Faqir, would be entertaining the visitors throughout the three days of the festival to remain open from 11am to 9pm on Saturday and Sunday, too.

Published in Dawn February 4th, 2017