Reclaiming and Reviving the Beauty of Gandhara Art | Ilyas Khattak Stories from the Street | Epi #2

    Ilyas Khattak, an artisan of 55 years, has honed his craft of replicating Gandhara sculptures over the past three and a half decades. However, his current state of mind is one of despair, as he bears witness to the steady decline of this art in Pakistan. He laments, “In the age of deprivation, with what regrets we kept looking for God in the heart of stones.” To better comprehend his unyielding devotion to his craft, let us delve deeper into Ilyas Khattak’s musings. Ilyas Khattak holds stones in the highest regard as they serve as the foundation of his art. The quality of the stone utilized in his creations is paramount and is a crucial determinant of the final product’s quality. To source the ideal stones, he scours entire mountains, diligently examining every rock for any cracks or defects. This meticulous selection process results in a mere dozen or so stones from thousands being deemed suitable for his work. Regrettably, Ilyas Khattak’s artistic endeavors have drawn widespread criticism from his detractors, including locals and individuals residing in his immediate vicinity. The artist acknowledges that his practice may be proscribed by some religious traditions, yet he steadfastly asserts that his work is primarily artistic in nature and not intended for religious worship. Notably, he previously mentored several talented pupils, who eventually departed after investing 15 years in the craft, having received insufficient compensation for their efforts. Despite his many years of dedicated work, Ilyas Khattak remains without a permanent abode, and the art industry in Pakistan appears to undervalue the artistic community’s contributions. Regrettably, he believes that the native market does not appreciate the value of Gandhara art, and artists can only fulfill their fundamental needs, nothing more.

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