Ufaq Fatima

Valley’s willow-wicker furniture business faces decline

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Shortage of artisans is the reason  

Srinagar: At a time when Chinese-made modern furniture is virtually flooding the markets here, toiling hard in their workshop in Dargah Hazratbal area are Shaksaz brothers creating traditional willow-wicker furniture.

Mohammad Hussain Shaksaz and Mukhtar Ahmad Shaksaz claim theirs is the only store in the Valley where the willow furniture is made.

“Though there are many places in Kashmir which are into willow-wicker business, but no one is into furniture making. There are only five to eight people associated with the willow furniture making craft and all are above 50s and this makes it probably the last generation who is into this bsuiness…” says Mukhtar.

“Every traditional art and craft of Kashmir demands immense hard work and patience. However, our youth is lazy and prefer fast ways of money making; so they have chosen to overlook these traditional ways of business,” Mukhtar explains.

The raw material for willow work is obtained from Ganderbal area in central Kashmir.

With time there have been many innovations in willow work with the addition of various new items, but there are also some items which are customised as per the demands of the clients.

“Earlier people used to purchase available material but now we usually make things as per our customers’ demands. Willow being flexible in nature allows us to shape it into anything. It takes a lot of mind work to shape willow into anything. We can even make an aeroplane…,” says Hussain with a wink of pride.

Shaksaz brothers have learned this craft without any particular training. Terming their business as a matter of pride and happiness, they say “we grew up seeing our father and grandfather doing all this and ended up loving this art form.”

Though the willow-made items are still flourishing in markets of Kashmir but the willow furniture can definitely become extinct in coming time as no young artisans are associated with it.

“Like most of other Kashmiri crafts, willow furniture is also facing a decline because it has failed to compete with modern ways of business. Besides this, with no young and creative people ready to take this art forward, unfortunately it seems to be in last throes,” Mukhtar rues.

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