Documenting endangered knowledge of making Chitrali shu (handwoven woollen cloth) in Chitral, Northwest Pakistan

By Adil Iqbal, Mansura Shams, Feroza Gulzar | 18 August 2022

This project aims to capture the process of making shu, a handwoven woollen textile, characteristic of the Chitral region in Northern Pakistan. The mountainous region of Chitral connects Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang in Northwest China. A famous product, shu has been traded across borders, emphasising that what we often consider remote areas are distinct economic and cultural centres. Climateadapted and windproof, the knowledge and skills of making this special fabric is a renowned heritage of the people of Chitral. Continued efforts to save this craft practice have to date been unsuccessful. The making of shu, and the related knowledge, skills and social rituals are endangered not only due to changes in the climate but also an ageing population in the villages and the lack of interest in craft skills from younger generations.

This exciting collaboration between an independent Scottish-Pakistani PI, Kho and Kalashi, a Chitrali women’s cooperative, a young Pakistani woman videographer and National Museums Scotland offers the opportunity not only to document current shu making as it is carried out by a declining number of families but also be of benefit to the local community. Capturing this practice through film and interviews will ensure that key technical and cultural aspects of this woven cloth will be preserved and made available for future Chitrali generations. National Museums Scotland planned activities will further increase public knowledge of the unique creative, physical and intangible qualities of Chitrali shu and the EMKP-funded archival documentation repository.

PI:
Adil Iqbal

Collaborators:
Mansura Shams
Feroza Gulzar

Location of Research:
Chitral, Pakistan

Host Institution:
National Museums Scotland

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