With Shoemakers of Hira Mandi
Shoemakers of Hira Mandi. Detail. Watercolour on wasli. 200cmx25cm (entire).
Making Shoemakers of Hira Mandi with the shoemakers of CMA Shoes in Old Lahore and at their village outside Lahore. Documentary images
As I began spending more time between India and Pakistan I became more interested to understand the working conditions of people. In summer in 2009 I had a month to explore and I chose the Old City. Round and round I went, losing myself in its labyrinth, trying to peer into the abundance of small factories but too shy to actually make contact with the workers. Then one day I actually fell into a tiny room in which a group of men sat making shoes. The workshop at fifty degrees heat was like a furnace.
The men gave me the warmest of welcomes, an extraordinary gift that had me coming back for the next few weeks to sit with them and draw. I spoke almost no Urdu then, but in the way that painting always seemed to provide a kind of bridge, we managed.
The men and boys had hard lives. They lived, ate, slept, and worked on the workshop floor six days a week. On the seventh day they rested after travelling three hours to their village outside Lahore to see their children, wives, and parents. Then they handed over all the money for which they had worked their hands as I had seen, literally to the bone.
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