One of the earliest examples of Eid cards as we know them to be today – mass produced and distributed through the postal system – can be traced to a time when Eid ul-fitr coincided with Christmas in British occupied India. This is dated to the early 20th century and eight decades after the introduction of the official British administered postal system. Before then? Migration was not a common trend to warrant letter writing between towns and cities, although handmade greeting cards were commonly exchanged in return for favours or rewards (we still call these Eidi). These were personally delivered to the recipient, to personally accept the reward since Eid is communally celebrated holiday.
Images of the coloniser continue to feature on these cards, the only distinguishing feature being the greeting added by the publisher. Eventually, Urdu poetry started to make an appearance, moving to symbolism that was formed more democratically, that is a for the people by the people mode of production.
This early card design of a mosque is clearly a precursor to the normative design we see today, it is an image in which the value of the faith is intrinsic to the celebration but, in my opinion, is not artistically portrayed. It is also as reductive in design as a snowy landscape scene, by which it is the act of exchanging cards that is considered above the aesthetic symbolism.
My own cards have been heavily influenced by the bright colours, floral pattern and Urdu text, which I had thought was a nod to Pakistani truck art and sticker labels on glass bottles but which I now realise is attributed much further back to the designs we have seen here on the Eid cards. And in full circle mode, the imagery of the cards themselves have become an icon of the culture. The flowers are inspired by a Mughal painting of a woman I have on my tea towel – this, combined with the main plate makes up four separate layers that are applied on the card before hand finishing with gold leaf application.
It is important to me to have shades of brown appear on the card for the hand. This is difficult to achieve using ink on a small block, but I’m mostly pleased with the outcome. I use small ink pads for the details in this print which are water based. My Eid cards are now available from my Etsy shop, link below.