Hundreds of years of art and craft, is often pushed aside by the glitz and glam of modern day civilization. Truth is, art preservation requires a lot of sacrifice and dedication. In a country where survival of the people is endangered by poverty, inflation and security issues, neglecting our heritage might be justified to some extent. However, there are still courageous people amongst us, who with their undeterred passion and exceptional skills have set out on this thrilling yet a very risky journey to preserve art and bring it in front of us with all of its former glory and charm.
Today, The Appjuice introduces you to “LEL”. (LEL is a Persian word meaning mountain). The story of LEL is actually the story of two immensely talented mother and daughter. Farhana Asad, while shopping in a bazaar of Peshawar came across a little pietra dura box, which intrigued her to know about its creation and ultimately led her to learning this complex yet enchantingly crafty work. Those were the humble beginnings of this company “LEL”.
Pietra Dura is the art of inlaying colored, precious stones with marbles and other semi precious metals. Even though this art dates back to the 16th century and has its origins in Italy, the art saw many of its stages of development in Europe, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Looking at the history of Sub-continent, we are well aware of the enthusiasm and fervor Mughul Emperors had for arts and crafts and mostly exquisite architecture. The proofs are still in front of us in the form of their palaces and forts, and tombs too. They were great lovers of pietra dura and a close look at their architecture would make it clearer. For instance Taj Mahal, Sheesh Mahal e.t.c.
Farhana Asad was fortunate enough to find herself a master of this art who taught her for nearly ten years. After which he, went back home in Afghanistan. Since then she herself became a trainer, and trained the Afghans and local Pushtuns in this art. Twenty years of hard work, and now what we see today is a successful enterprise that not only preserves our heritage but also works its best to train and provide labor to those in need.
LEL became a family business with the addition of Farhana’s daughter Mehrunnisa Asad. She is the Creative Director of the company and brings in her ideas to inculcate contemporary and modern style in this art. The art which was first confined to table tops and tiles has now been extended to decoration pieces, jewelry boxes and much more.
They have been part of exhibitions to promote this art and help them showcase their astounding talent.
Behind the Scenes
LEL trains amateurs for a couple of years under a master artisan until they can be individually handed out projects. The training and time spent on each artist makes this job even more difficult. It is because artisans trained are the Afghans that migrated to Pakistan and local Pushtuns, for whom life is tougher. They are constantly under threats, questioned by the police forces and always with the uncertainty of being deported. Training and payment of each work because of time and circumstances is not a quick process which leaves artisans in the dilemma to leave it altogether or continue with the labor as a sole mean of earning. For the company too, this is hard, since the time spent on each trainee and then a sudden leave can cost them a lot.
However, with the efforts put in, each work of art is unique. The designs both contemporary and traditional are inlayed with such delicacy and beauty that they are undoubtedly worth every second spent on them.
LEL plans on showcasing and exhibiting its work abroad. They are working their utmost to collaborate with retail stores in New York and Toronto and make this company a global entity. The company also strives to preserve this art form and help spread its learning. They are working with Aga Khan Trust and TourqoiseMountain to take this project further ahead.
A well deserved round of applause to Farhana Asad and Mehrunnisa Asad for their contributions in not only reviving this art but taking it to a whole new level. The Appjuice wishes you all the very best for the future.