The tie and dye textile industry in Rajasthan, India is 5,000 years old. In the past, this industry was powered by slavery or bonded-servitude; today it still requires long hours of manual labor. Families begin work early in the morning each day in Jodhpur, and work full days year round; while younger generations are taught before and after school. On this visit to the ‘Blue City’ in late 2016 I ventured out early in the morning to a small neighborhood against the city walls. Here, I met families who had worked in this difficult industry for generations and was invited to witness centuries old traditions.
Cloth is hand-dipped into vats. Most houses focus on a single color per day, week, or permanently to prevent cross-contamination of colors and to use supplies efficiently. The dye stains everything it touches, even the house.
An untied piece of fabric showcasing the famous Leheria style of tie dye. Often Leheria-style dyed fabrics are sold still tied, with only a small part untied for the buyer to see.
A boy finishes hanging cloth to dry in the sun before going to school in the morning.
On the roof of another house, couples take the dried fabrics and steam out the wrinkles. The fabrics can then be folded and prepared for sale. Most of the raw textile production takes place on a few adjacent streets, with families specializing in different production steps.
Preparing a large completed fabric for a buyer.
Women lay out smaller pieces of stamped fabric to dry in the sun. Outside the narrow neighborhood streets in the city, more families work in open, dusty fields where there are no shadows to slow the drying process.
©2018 Kate Pientka Photography