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Srinagar Craft Safari completes 10th Edition

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SRINAGAR: Kashmir handmade craft, which is world-famous and has won Srinagar city recognition as UNESCO’s Creative City in the field of Craft and Art, is being revived by various interventions of the department of Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir which has started a process of organizing Craft Safaris in a unique way to give new life to the world-famous crafts of Kashmir.

A team of officers from the Handicrafts and Handloom Department, Intellectuals, Academic Scholars, Journalists, Tour operators, Social Media Influencers, and Students congregate at the workplaces of the artisans who still are carrying the centuries-old crafts in Kashmir. The handicraft department makes sure that the safari members create awareness about the crafts to boost the historic heritage crafts of Kashmir.

Today, Craft Safari in its 10th edition commenced from Bait-Ul-Meeras meaning a heritage home, a century-old four-story historic house that is an ideal example of the valley’s peculiar architectural design. Bait-ul-Meeras stands tall as the epitome of the rich cultural history. The place is showcasing artifacts that are not only vintage but are of historical importance as well; the house in itself is an architectural heritage marvel and has become a center of attraction over the weekends where workshops for students and various storytelling events are being held.

At the unit of Mohammad Iftikhar Bhat a resident of Kutub-u-dinpora Aali Kadal, the team witnessed weaving magic on Kani Shawls. The skills of masterful manipulation of threads on needles have no parallel and these skillful manipulations make Iftikhar confident about incorporating any contemporary design on the shawls.

Shabir Ahmad Hagroo who has been running the hundred years old shop at Aali Kadal has been needling magic on the cloth mostly used for pherans, which is a must in almost every bride’s trousseaus was the next stop for today’s team. Shabir has inherited the craft from his father and is practicing it for the last 30 years. He has not only mastered the artwork but has also excelled in making traces of motifs that are used to create marvels on the fabric.

The safari continued to the Aali Kadal Ghat, a hub of craft richness and skill preserved by master craftsmen for centuries. The art of washing Pashmina, which involves a delicate process exhibited by the local families who have been associated with the process over the centuries. People associated with the craft believe that it is the waters of Jhelum which give the dreamlike texture of Kashmir Pashmina and infuses life into the dyed Pashmina of myriad colours. The kaleidoscopic dance of the hanging pashmina is a common sight and acts as a delight for the eyes every morning.

Traditional silverware with intricate artwork has always found great favour in the international market along with its increasing popularity in the domestic market. The intrinsic items of silverware were appreciated by all at the unit of Ghulam Ahmad Banday and his family. The artwork on silver items covers a wide range of silver items. Popular among them are Quran cases, dry fruit boxes, flower vases, chinars, ornamental picture frames, cigarette cases, tumblers, and others.

At S.R Gunj the team admired the entire area which is associated with the copperware craft, however, Fayaz Ahmad Bhat who was the culminating craftsman in today’s safari is a well-known craftsman and has a reputation for creating one of the most beautiful copper items. With a vast experience spanning over two decades, he has perfected his skills to a level where he is able to engrave unique designs and has earned a name for himself.

Since Srinagar city is listed in UNESCO’s list of creative cities the department of Handicrafts and Handloom has amplified the work on the revival of the heritage and culture of Kashmir.

Speaking to the team the Director Handicrafts & Handloom Kashmir, Mahmood Ahmad Shah strengthened the commitment of the department to combat the machine-made crafts for which the department will be starting GI tagging and QR-based labeling of the handmade products. “To strengthen the handmade crafts, artisans and crafts there is a need to work more towards regaining trust among customers and create awareness so that genuine, handmade and GI-tagged Kashmir products are sold by traders and bought by customers instead of cheaper, machine-made copies,” he said.

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