The middle area of Sindh (Vicholo Sindh) is irrigated for farming and also has fishing. The region is famous for dyeing, weaving, and printing textiles. As is the custom throughout Sindh, people are identified by their religion and their occupations. Village life has caste distinctions, and the village has clear social stratifications based on heredity and occupation. For example, one small town called Chiho is mostly populated by Muslim farmers. They are joined by smaller numbers of Hindu Marwari and Muslim Brahui. Each group has its own distinctive clothing. Marwari originally came from Rajasthan in India and are known for their business sense. Marwari women are known for their singing and enjoy high-pitched tones with complicated rhythms to celebrate life events. The Brahui come from Baluchistan each spring with their families and animals and work weeding, begging, and selling firewood or animals until they return home in the fall.
In Middle Sindh, many women like to use a variety of geometric checkerboard designs in their ralli quilts. The intricate borders from this area have repeated, connected patterns. Some parts of Middle Sindh are famous for the interesting color combinations in their quilts—the Umerkot quilt in this exhibition, for instance, uses small patchwork blocks in seven different color combinations. Some locales are also known for the embroidered work that is produced there.
Northern Sindh has been part of important trade routes throughout recorded history. It was already a strategic location when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BC and later became a spoke on the Silk Road trade route between the Far East and the Mediterranean. Irrigation from the Indus River and its tributaries constitutes the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system, capable of watering more than 16 million hectares. The area is famous for delicious dates and also grows rice, cotton, wheat, barley, and vegetables. It is also famous for artists, folk singers, leaders, and scholars.
One style of ralli quilt particular to Northern Sindh is made of many ornate and finely worked appliqué blocks surrounded by appliqué borders. The appliqué blocks are placed on various colored backgrounds, and colored fabrics are added to the cut-out part of the appliqué. Women from this area make appliqué forms with very fine lines (as small as a few millimeters in width). Around the city of Khairpur, rallis are made with a solid field in the middle with appliqué shapes for decoration, like the lotus flowers on the quilt in this exhibition.
Click images below to view larger and read more information about some of the quilts included in the exhibit.