On January 26, 2001, there was an earthquake which devastated the landscape and lives of the people of Kutch Desert. The foundation immediately began fundraising through a series of auctions and speaking engagements and through the creation of an Internet relief site. This campaign raised approximately $35,000.00 which went directly to earthquake relief activities. The money was used for the purchase of tents to provide immediate and long-term housing, the purchase of food and medical supplies, the rebuilding of workplaces, and the replacement of tools and supplies needed to return to work.
The massive earthquake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.. Kutch was the epicentre of seismic activity felt across most of India and Pakistan. The towns of Bhuj and Bachau were flattened and severe damage was inflicted on the town of Anjar. Seventy-nine hundred villages were affected and over four hundred villages were completely destroyed. The earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks affected nearly sixteen million people, resulting in more than twenty-five thousand deaths, one hundred and sixty-nine thousand injuries, and the destruction of over one million homes. UNICEF estimates that as many as five million children were directly affected through the loss of family, home, or school. Authorities have estimated fifteen thousand schools were damaged or destroyed along with three hundred hospitals. Massive damage was inflicted on the water and sanitation systems and more than twenty thousand cattle were killed.
The earthquake was caused by the Indian plate pushing northward into the Eurasian plate. At the rate of one centimetre per year, this slow collision has produced the Himalayan mountain range. The stresses also affect the Indian subcontinent. Here they produce large disturbances where there are significant faults in the crust.
This earthquake was similar to the June sixteenth, 1819, Rann of Kutch event, which was estimated to have the same magnitude and epicentre. The 1819 quake threw up a nine-metre vertical displacement that has become known as the Allah Bund or the Wall of God. This feature changed the course of the Indus River, thus forming the Kutch Desert.
For residents of the area, the devastation seemed immediate and unending. This part of the world is familiar with struggle but the scope of this catastrophe, the collapsed infrastructure, and the loss of life undermined both determination and optimism.
The foundation immediately began fundraising through a series of auctions and speaking engagements and through the creation of an Internet relief site. This campaign raised approximately $35,000.00 which went directly to earthquake relief activities. The money was used for the purchase of tents to provide immediate and long-term housing, the purchase of food and medical supplies, the rebuilding of workplaces, and the replacement of tools and supplies needed to return to work.
Water is vital to the production of Ajrakh cloth. Artisans take the cloth through a process that can involve over thirty separate steps as first the cloth is prepared, then mordanted, then dyed. Through each stage the character of the water will influence everything - from the shades of the colours themselves to the success or failure of the entire process.
The Khatri community in Dhamadka and Ajrakpur, led by three (now famous) brothers: Razzaque, Ismail, and Jabbar have come together to solve what amounts to a crisis for the traditional blockprinters. Falling water tables and changes in quality of water have effectively forced the group to scout a new site for their “farm” or ajrakh studio. The relocation means the group must raise funds to purchase new land.
The three brothers are located in the Kutch desert on India’s western border. They are part of a family that can trace it’s blockprinting heritage back for nine generations. Razzaque has won the National Award for Craft (as did his father before him) and Ismail has received an honourary doctorate from De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.
The Maiwa Foundation is orchestrating fund-raising activities to assist in the land purchase. The Khatri’s have produced a collection of exhibition quality double-sided Ajrakh to be auctioned for the cause. Many guilds and other groups are working together with Maiwa to ensure that the artisans are able to relocate before the water at the present sites is either unusable or completely gone.