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Description

Man’s rectangular shawl made of red and black block-printed cotton textile, heavily embroidered on all four corners with multi-coloured floral designs, abstract representations of peacocks, geometric patterns, mirrors, rickrack and beaded tassels. The designs on the four corners are worked in silk thread and are almost identical to each other, differing only in minor details and colours. Embroidered yellow stripes extend vertically and horizontally across the shawl and intersect at the center with an embroidered diamond shaped medallion. The block printed designs on the textile form striped borders at each edge, and there is a central rectangle which contains stylized floral patterns arranged in diamond-shaped frames. The block-printed textile is pieced along one long edge (machine stitched) prior to embroidering. There is a strip of black cotton fabric (8.5 cm wide) hand-sewn at each end.

History Of Use

Presented to the bridegroom by the bride’s family and worn by him at the wedding. It is thrown around the groom’s shoulders by his female relatives as he leaves to collect his bride on their wedding day, and he continues to wear it with the ends thrown forward over his shoulders for the journey and rituals that take place in the bride’s house. When the bride and groom leave the ceremony, it is draped around them both, with each holding one end. Sometimes it is held overhead like a canopy over the newlyweds, with the corners held by male relatives of the bride. Used as a shawl or spread by both men and women on auspicious occasions after the wedding.

Cultural Context

ceremonial

Iconographic Meaning

Red is symbolic of blood and life and is always worn at weddings. Some of the embroidered figures represent peacocks, which are endowed with protective powers and symbolize fertility and prosperity. Peacocks are indigenous to the region.

Specific Techniques

Block printed using mordants and resist dyes.

Narrative

Purchased by Razia Ahmed from a dealer in Mithi, Sindh, Pakistan. The name malir is derived from the name of the town in which it is made. Ahmed was told that the name malir refers to the particular pattern on the textile, not just the shawl itself. Malirs are rare and costly. They take six months to a year to make. Work on the malir is begun when the bride is a little girl. In 1988, there were only two families of block printers left in Malir, and because of the troubled political situation and changing fashions, the block printers were finding it hard to survive.

Item History

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