Mughal influence on textiles explored

Published January 30, 2021
Designer-turned filmmaker Nabeel Akhtar speaks at the event on Friday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Designer-turned filmmaker Nabeel Akhtar speaks at the event on Friday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Costumes and turbans inspired from India before partition, characterised by decorative patterns, vibrancy of colours and finesse of the fabric, have distinct styles that have developed for people from various socio-economic classes and gender.

This perspective was shared by Lahore-based Nabeel Akhtar, a designer-turned filmmaker and a creative director. He was speaking at an event organised by the Asian Study Group focusing on prints, motifs and their representation in contemporary art.

Akhtar has been associated with various arts, culture and history projects for which he has avidly conducted research.

His presentation explored symbolism rooted in the costumes worn in Mughal courts and how their prints and motifs have evolved to fit the contemporary culture followed in music videos and films today.

The contemporary media industry, he said, has tried to preserve the essence of traditional attire through experimentation that embraces a fascination for the nostalgic past, characterised with an indefinable balance of compositional elements, ideas, tonalities, moods, dazzling colours and floral ornamental aesthetic.

With the aid of visuals of miniature paintings, Akhtar explained to his audience how wardrobes of local textiles assembled by emperors Akbar and Jahangir were different from those worn by Babur (1526–30) and Humayun (1530–40; 1555–56). They continued to wear the heavy postin - a sheep skin coat - and the chafan, alongwith a coat made from wool, silk and leather; more suited to the cooler climate of Babur’s original homeland in Central Asia, he said, adding that during Akbar’s reign, cotton textiles, which could be fashioned into jamas and dupattas, entered the imperial wardrobe through tribute, purchases and gifts.

“The importance of cotton within Akbar’s wardrobe is reflected in the fact that the A’in-i Akbari (Institutes of Akbar), written between 1591 and 1592, lists 30 different types of cotton fabric and their respective prices, alongside 39 varieties of silk and 26 types of wool,” he said.

“As he was respectable of all faiths, this was depicted in the costumes’ diversity as well. Though royally hemp caps were replaced by turbans,” he said, adding Jahangir’s garments may also have contributed to this iconography, meant to further assert his independence and superiority.

Trained initially as a textile designer, Akhtar harbours a deep interest in costumes and cultures of the global South within an Indo-Persian context. He has also worked on the restoration of various heritage sites (shrines) in Punjab.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Noon leaks
Updated 27 Sep, 2022

Noon leaks

PMO audio leaks are a national security emergency that ought to be investigated at the highest level.
Cipher probe offer
27 Sep, 2022

Cipher probe offer

CONSIDERING the toxic political polarisation in the country, former prime minister Imran Khan’s suggestion that ...
Delaying Doha plans
27 Sep, 2022

Delaying Doha plans

WHEN Doha announced its intention to spend $3bn in different commercial and investment sectors of Pakistan around a...
Debt deferment
Updated 26 Sep, 2022

Debt deferment

Pakistan’s dollar funding needs for next 5 years have never been so large and world’s appetite to hold its hands never so poor.
Dengue concerns
26 Sep, 2022

Dengue concerns

AS weather conditions change in Pakistan, the threat of dengue looms large over the land. According to a warning...
Relic of colonialism
26 Sep, 2022

Relic of colonialism

THE law on sedition, one of several holdovers of colonial times, is among the most handy instruments for controlling...