Crafts in Pakistan are extremely diverse and are a potent expression of the skill and ingenuity of the artisans belonging to various regions of the country. A need for systematic cataloguing and mapping of crafts has been felt for a long time, even though efforts have been made by public and private sector for craft promotion. In order to carry out sustained promotion, rejuvenation and utilization in contemporary products, the first step is the cataloguing and mapping of the numerous craft skills that exist in the country.
A study on development potential of crafts by women in Pakistan published by UNIDO in the early 2000s confirmed that Sindh has been extremely rich in handicrafts pointing out that its “textiles are very famous especially block printing and tie-and-dye. It also enjoys a reputation for textiles, pottery, clay, carved furniture, leatherwork and carpets.” However, due to various drawbacks and non-existence of supportive environment, it is clear that there has been a decline in artisanship in the entire province.
In July 2006, Department of Culture, Government of Sindh, approached Heritage Foundation (HF) to collaborate in mapping non-architectural crafts of Sindh. Since 1980, HF has been engaged in the cataloguing and mapping of heritage assets of the country and has published several documents in the National Register of Historic Places of Pakistan series relating to Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.
Due to the importance of the project, HF undertook the work particularly as it provided an opportunity to initiate a National Register of Crafts of Pakistan. An MOU was signed by Department of Culture and Tourism with HF in August 2006. The arrangement was envisaged as a partnership in order to bring about greater awareness regarding the existing and almost extinct crafts and lay the basis for their revival. For this purpose, HF developed a methodology which would yield as wide a range of existing crafts as possible. It has been our endeavour to cover all major crafts and to make the inventory as comprehensive as possible, however, because of the difficulty in accessing remote areas, 100% coverage could not be ensured.
After a workshop was conducted by HF, field visits by HF Craft Coordinator and Deputy Director, Social Welfare Department were undertaken to all the five districts in order to clarify and provide direction to the participants. Each participant was given a small honorarium to cover the cost of travel and photography. On the basis of the HF Crafts Inventory Form, work on collection of field data was undertaken.
The field data received from various sites has been compiled and Inventory of Crafts of Sindh is being developed for the districts of Badin, Matiari-Hala, Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Thatta.
Based on the experience gained from the work in the five districts of Sindh, an inventory of crafts of various towns of Karachi is also being undertaken.