Sindhyar Makhdoom, founder of Hala Kashigar is from a town in Sindh called Nawa Hala, spent most of his childhood in the U.K, completing both boarding school and university, despite that his impetus to return to his homeland was strong, being a creative, musical maestro, he knew his calling lay in the arts. Performing as an Alto in choirs, a pianist at the orchestra, an actor in school theatre not to mention an avid sportsman and a very talented guitarist. He has specialised in Business Management from Nottingham Trent University and the School of Orientalist and African studies (SOAS). After working for a multinational insurance company for a few years in Dubai, Sindhyar returned to Karachi where he was keen to develop his creative understanding of the arts in Pakistan in the milieu of remote Sindh, this with his business background and his diverse international travel made for it time to start his own business earlier this year.
Although a new venture, we see his humility in this feature dedicated to his brainchild, even though only of few months, his progress has been inspiring. The designs are so exquisite that during my last trip to Pakistan all I did was either spend hours staring at their pottery at the shops they stock in, buy plates which were limited edition and think of ways I could decorate this in my house with that rustic feel. With amazing quality and finish, their designs are so innovative, my personal favourites are his bird bowls and hanging plates with blue and yellow designs – to me personally they give a great bohemian and Grecian feel which is lovely for any patio or terrace.
Now for the conversation that transpired between us:
Tell us a bit of the history of Hala pottery?
Hala is one of the leading historical, literary and spiritually renowned towns of the subcontinent which has now become home to ancient artisanal Kashi artists called ‘Kashigars’. One could say the history of Hala pottery evolved due to the expansion of Islam, Islamic culture and Islamic art from Persia which found its way to Kashgar in China and later down to the East of the Indus plain were Hala is located. Hence, the geometrical patterns, colors and dyes that one can observe in the crafts are really a representation of Islamic art and due to the impact of Islamic culture within the region. (‘Kashi-Kari’ meaning mosaic art in Persian.)
Can you tell us what made you interested in reviving and modernising Hala’s ancient pottery?
I think from very early on in my age, I was always fascinated by art. As a child one of my earliest memories was always having rallis or Ajraks at home, staring at the patterns for hours pretending they were stars. While some may have found it a dread to go to their villages, I was always excited to go visit these shops, play on ‘pheengas’ (traditional Sindhi swings), and play with colourful handmade toys. At the end of the day, I guess I couldn’t deprive my creativity and the thought of working with people from my own hometown excited me.
What is your inspiration for your designs?
As these crafts have been passed down through generations, my job was initially to evaluate the range of products and skills they possess, and how to transform them so they’d appeal to the modern buyer – it is primarily a collaboration of their skills and mine one can say.
Where do you stock in Karachi and your price range?
Currently we stock at Pith and Tali in Karachi, and are looking for different opportunities in cities such as Lahore and Islamabad. Price vary on designs from Rs.2,000/- up to Rs.8000/-. We also have an Instagram page @halakashigar where you can contact us directly for orders!
How do you work actively with the potters and cultivate their talent?
The potters are extremely hardworking and responsive to our vision. I have specifically been trying to put more focus on those workshops that perhaps were not as popular earlier even though the quality of their work was just as good. Initially some potters wanted me to solely trade with them and there’s always minor problems or politics between these very poor traders (understandably so), however my aim is to support all workshops without any prejudice and help provide consistent sales on a monthly basis.
Can people visit and are you thinking of doing tours going forward?
The town itself is approximately 3 hours away from Karachi if traveling by car and roads are now much smoother. While the town is easy to reach, the workshops however may not be easy to spot as they are spread across in different localities and seem hidden away at times. But if you are looking around to shop, you can easily locate our famous Hala Bazaar and other shops with handicrafts. And yes, we have designed a full day trip to Hala which we are hoping to start during winter. This shall include around 4-5 activities, place to relax eat food and do some shopping.
SO, if you haven’t already gone to Tali, Pith or checked out their amazing Instagram page for products reasonably priced – you need to now!