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An exhibition from Khamir and the leather artisans of Kachchh

 
 
 
 
 

“In the old days, we made shoes out of leather for the nomadic Maldharis. Often, we etched designs on the shoe’s sole.If anyone roaming the desert stumbled upon beautiful footprints, they knew a Maldhari had walked that path before them."

 

Decades later, we attempt to follow those footprints back to the shoemakers. This year's annual exhibition, 'Rohi," we invite you to listen to their stories of migration, struggle, relationships, and change.

 
 

What is Rohi?

For a Kachchi leather artisan, finding the perfect stone slab to work on is pivotal. He usually searches for it by a river bank or in the hills, choosing one which is smooth to the touch and strong to its core. The stone is called Rohi -- after the holy leather artisan, Sant Rohidas.

Before starting work, the artisan bows to his Rohi. It is sacred. It resists the sharp blade and relentless pounding, its form intact through seasons and calamities. It is a steady companion in all the moments leading to the artisan’s creation. Often, a father passes his Rohi down to his son as an heirloom.

 

Watch the Rohi documentary film trailer below

 

Words from the artisans

 
 

The Origins of the Meghwars 

There was a drought / People were suffering / The Gods heeded the sacrifice / of Megh Rikh and let loose the rains. / Since then we became the Meghwars.

 
 

Haatar & Community Relations

"We made the shoes, and our clients rewarded us with what they felt was appropriate- grains, clothes, dairy or cattle. That is how the value for our work was quantified, never with money." 

 
 

Tanning Process

"We made the shoes, and our clients rewarded us with what they felt was appropriate -- grains, clothes, ghee or cattle. "

 
 

Change

"If we get work in the factory, our salary will be enough to live comfortably. But when the wind blows towards us, it brings those bad fumes from the chimneys. Even the trees have become darker since the factory came up. For the pocket it is good, but for our health, it isn’t. But the bigger reason I cannot work there is because I cannot leave this leather work -- I am devoted to it."

 
 

Resilience

"Our skill and devotion to leather runs deep in my veins, but I have no attachment to the way my community was made to live in the old days. "

 
 
 

Meet the leather artisans who contributed their expertise to this exhibition

 
 
 

Meet the Rohi exhibition team

Curators

Advisors