Project Description

Swan Song of the Badlas   |  Taha Ahmad

Mukaish Badla is a form of embroidery, which at its peak flourished in the Indian city of Lucknow. At its peak in the 18th century, the art form travelled to different parts of the world, but is now restricted to a few narrow lanes of the old city of Lucknow. The art was introduced, by the Nawabs who ruled the city, to beautify another form of embroidery called chickankari — which still persists in the Indian subcontinent. Mukaish, however, ended up becoming an independent style and flourished across the city in the past. The artisans who perform this art were at the time referred to as Badlas. ‘Swan Song of the Badlas’ revolves around the life of these Badlas and their families, who are struggling to keep the art alive. The artisans, who devote their lives to the art form, make a bare minimum of Rs. 150 – 250 per day, for working in extremely harsh conditions for 10 hours every day. The city once had more than 3,000 badlas, but now the number has come down to just 20-25, all of them aged above 65. Badlas complain about the practiced apathy of the government, which leads to further exploitation by their masters, who own the means of production and their lives



Taha Ahmad

Taha Ahmad is a Lucknow-born documentary photographer currently based in Delhi, and pursuing his Masters in Fine Arts from Jamia Milllia Islamia University. His work has been exhibited in various galleries across India and has been featured in multiple publications


Photography (C) Taha Ahmed