Traditional Kashmiri handicraft dying a slow death

wilayattimes (Jammu and Kashmir)

Srinagar | WTNS | Feb 15:The Handicrafts in the Kashmir valley have been a traditional source of livelihood for years. The industry not only met the daily requirements of the people associated with it but also provided employment to others.

The handicraft products have attained fame both at the national and global level. The Kashmir valley is recognized throughout the world for its art and crafts along with the scenic beauty and climate.

Arts like papier mache, wood carving, basketry, metalwork, clays, ceramic mat weaving, leather furs, crevel work and stone crafting have received praises and admiration all over the world.

Unfortunately these crafts are becoming a part-time activity over the years. It has suffered due to constraints of low capital, poor exposure to newer technologies, absence of market intelligence and the callous approach by the government to keep these crafts alive, an elderly craftsman told here.

Ghulam Nabi Dar of downtown Srinagar, a national awardee who works as woodcarving craftsman for 50 years, said that the art is on the verge of extinction

“There are no more people now who aspire to learn the art, though the Government has opened the institution for Training the different age old traditional arts, but unfortunately they are not yielding any results.

“I wanted a successor for the art I had. I have been training my son for years now but to say that he has developed an expertise in the art is difficult. He is also an instructor now at a Art Training Government institute but the duration they have set for learning the art is very less. It takes years to learn the art,” he said.

“If Government wants to keep this art alive more awareness and training has to be imparted among aspiring youth,” Dar told here.

Ghulam Mohi-U-Din Dar,  a paper machie craftsman who is in the business for the last 30 years, said that the art used to be a golden business, however over the years the business of paper machie has gone down despite of huge requirements both at national and international level.

“We don’t have enough money to buy the raw material to keep stock in buffer. People with money buy stock from us on lower rates and later sell the same stuff and good rates,” Mohi-U-Din Dar, has also been awarded for his work, said.

“Government on papers say a lot but on the ground that does not exist anywhere,” he said.

Another craftsman associated with the crevil art narrated the same ordeal and said that the government should showcase their art and exhibit it along with artisans so that they can get direct clientele.

An elderly trader dealing with the general wholesale items in the downtown area of Srinagar said, “the Handicraft trade is our identity, which has always been the glory of the downtown market, but the trade has been witnessing a downfall lately.”

“The artisans associated with the trade are old now and there are hardly any new among young generation who are expert in this business now,” he said.

“If this art has to remain alive Government should look into it seriously and plan a rehabilitation policy for them so the art will continue and more people will be skilled to continue it,” he said.

Director Handicraft Mehmood Shah while speaking to the Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said, “A lot needs to done with respect to the promotions, marketing and publicity.”

“We have also launched ‘Support Artisan Scheme’ in which we have made 700 Self Help Groups (SHG) and by the end of this year, we are planning 2000 Self Help Groups, in which each group will be given the financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh to purchase the raw material,” he said.

“ Support to Artisan is another scheme in which artisans are given loan, and this year onwards we are planning exhibitions in different arts across the country where these artisans can showcase their products, and this paves way for them to sell their products directly to customers,” he said.