Sba Shaikh

“… under the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and the Naib Nazim of Dacca in 1778, Jamdani became a fabric associated with wealth and royalty.”

– Sba

My practice involves using translucent fabric that can play with light, and Muslin or ‘Mulmul’ is one of my vital go-to fabrics. Not only is it light but easy to dye, with achievable intense colours. My upbringing had a strong Indian narrative, and many words were mentioned, such as Jamdani, even though I recently found out that some of my family were weavers. Moreover, although there was awareness of Jamdani, there was still this unsureness as to what it was. Additionally, during a trip to Kolkata, I discovered fascinating facts: that there was fabric produced so fine that it could slip through a ring or fit into – the presumption is a large – matchbox. To my disheartening, the fabric was not being manufactured anymore and lost to the world.

Thereupon whilst researching for this chapter, there was a heightened awareness and knowledge of the rich historical heritage of Jamdani in detail. There, a realisation was made that the fabric that could slip through a ring ‘like butter’ or fit into a matchbox turned out to be ‘Dhakai Muslin’.

Through my research, what came to light is how textiles also symbolises power, wealth, cultural, political, and technological exchanges that occurred through many cultures. Such as in South East Asia during 1206–1368 through the means of honourable robes known as ‘Tiraz’. Moreover, tracing the routes of textiles and techniques, even European textiles were seen as a luxury commodity, such as tapestries. Jamdani, too, fell into this bracket during its height. Due to the nature of how Jamdani was and is still created.

Jamdani, as with Tiraz, has Persian routes and developed its unique place within the history of textiles. The Jamdani technique was developed in Dhaka, in present-day Bangladesh. Nevertheless, under the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and the Naib Nazim of Dacca in 1778, Jamdani became a fabric associated with wealth and royalty. The British also, through this period, made Jamdani part of the world’s handwoven silk and cotton trade – valued than in the millions.

The Jamdani narrative and the identity of its motifs have been rescued and resurrected. Moreover, it is receiving tremendous interest worldwide and is becoming a luxury fabric again. Furthermore, it has been compared to the intricate, fine weaving of the Kashmiri shawl. UNESCO has also included Jamdani as part of their Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. 1

Technology also is starting to play an essential part in preserving the remaining motifs that are and have been associated only with Jamdani. Bengali computer scientists have created a program to preserve the vanishing Jamdani motif’s – of which some have been lost – and introduced Jamdani specific motifs to the new technological world and future generations.

The older motifs were coded into the program, which then acted as templates and can be digitally developed to create Jamdani-style motifs by a simple line drawing.


Image 1: illustrates how the program worked the (middle column) model trained on Jamdani Noksha’s hand-drawn sketch version, compared to ground truth (right column). Left column shows input strokes from user. 2

Links to how the Jamdani motifs were digitalised into a program.

  • Coded digitalised Jamdani motifs – how the interactive program was created.  3

  • Interactive demo on how a traced Jamdani line drawing motif is converted into a Jamdani motif.

      Interactive demo. 4  

  • Jamdani finished coded website – with pre-set line drawings.

      Jamdani Artist 5

Jamdani seems to have no religious attachment, and that it has a unique identifier linked to the ancient history of Muslin. The formation of Jamdani was a gift to Muslin by the period and creative artistry of that time. Due to the introduction of floral motifs whilst weaving the Muslin. Now leading to the current period, the gift of technology is opening Jamdani to another audience.

Image 2: Vocalist Anami Boase in a beautiful ‘Dhakai Jamdani’ Sari


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