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Image Credit: Twitter

  • Clothing retailer uses traditional 'Ajrak' pattern in piece
  • Pakistanis ask for credit 
  • The pattern has been misrepresented in the past by clothing brands

Dubai: While the Ajrak pattern might look foreign to some, if one is familiar with Sindhi culture, it is easily recognisable.

A New York-based brand is selling a top incorporating the design and it is sparking some controversy online. The clothing item uses the Ajrak pattern – a traditional Sindhi-style blockprinted cloth.

Retail websites selling the piece, described it’s colour as ‘Brick Multi’ and some Pakistanis are asking for credit while others are claiming cultural appropriation.

Currently, the item is priced at around Dh480 on a website called Forward.

Social media backlash

A number of Pakistanis on Twitter have raised their concerns. Author Bina Shah, @BinaShah, expressed her unhappiness: “Hi Sea New York. This is not a ‘brick multi”, it’s Sindhi Ajrak from the land of Sindh, Pakistan. We’re not very happy that you’ve used this cloth to make a top without acknowledging the origin of the cloth, or where you sourced it from.”

Pakistani politician and parliamentary leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Sherry Rehman, @SRehmanOffice, also tweeted about the issue: “Why is this New York fashion brand selling Ajrak designs as ‘brick multi’? Dear @Seafashion you need to acknowledge and not scavenge a signature historical motif of Pakistan without acknowledging inspiration source!”

However, there are those who said that no copyright infringement arises with using the pattern and the retailer is not required to credit a particular entity.

Replying to Rehman’s tweet, @RezaAli1980, wrote: “No intellectual property or proprietary rights vest in the usage of an Ajrak design, unless the design is protected, which it can’t be because no singular entity can lay ownership of it. No requirement to acknowledge.”

To claims like these, tweep @RasheedMemon replied: “#Sindh govt should raise this issue with relevant quarters and claim rights. Also govt should get #Ajrak and other similar heritage works patented.”

What is Ajrak?

The pattern originated in Pakistan’s Sindh province. It is said to be traceable from the earliest archaeological findings of the ancient Indus civilization of Mohenjo Daro.

The designing technique involves woodblock printing onto cotton cloth, resulting in unique geometric patterns. The designs are common around Pakistan and have become a cultural symbol of the Sindhi community.

In the past, another American company, Urban Outfitters used the pattern on some of their swimwear and marketed it as ‘Moroccan Print’.

Similarly, American fashion brand Forever 21 has also sold items with the design and called it ‘Baroque Print’.