In order to have a holistic approach towards tapping the intangible knowledge using Craft Safari as a tool, the Department of Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir conducted the third edition of Craft Safari post recognition of Srinagar as the UNESCO craft city in the field of Craft and Folk Art.
‘Such Craft Safaris suggest how such models can be the forerunners to promote craft and cultural tourism in Srinagar’, said an officer of the department.
He added, ‘It discusses at length multiple activities like mapping craftspeople, developing connections, conducting contextual programmes (craft-design innovation and community participation), knowledge dissemination and developing infrastructure, with a core vision of sustaining the intangible knowledge for the tourists visiting Srinagar.’
The third edition of the safari commenced from the Tracing Unit of Bashir Ahmad at Alamgiri Bazar Chowk. Tracing is an initial process of Sozni, Zari, Crewel and Ari Stapple craft wherein the pattern is embossed on the base fabric by specialized tracers known as Naqash, with carved blocks of walnut wood dipped in a watery solution of charcoal powder mixed with a binder.
The team which included the officers from the Handicrafts and Handloom Department, Intellectuals, Academic Scholars, Journalists, Tour operators and other fields proceeded to the unit of Ghulam Mohi ud din who is a master artisan in the Sozni craft and has been honored as Shilp Guru Award.
The unit happens to be one of the pilot karkhana under the recently launched Karkhandar scheme of the Handicrafts & Handloom department.
The team continued its safari to the work place of Syed Fida Hussain who is one of the rare artisans engaged in the craft of Paper Pulp at Abiyar Zadibal. The Paper Mache pulp is what gives Paper Mache products all those fantastic shapes, their detail and dimension.
It also visited the Carpet Rafugari unit of Altaf Hussain. Carpet Rafugiri is the process of repairing a hole in a carpet and employs the darning stitch, in which the thread is “woven” in rows along the grain of the carpet, with the stitcher reversing direction at the end of each row, and then filling in the framework thus created, as if weaving.
Further, the team visited to Shah Handicrafts, a Paper Machie unit owned by Syed Amjad at Ali Park Zadibal. The paper-Machie technique of using paper pulp for making decorative objects was first adopted in Kashmir in the 15th century.
It is based primarily on paper pulp, and is a richly decorated, colourful artifact; generally, in the form of vases, bowls, or cups (with and without metal rims), boxes, trays, bases of lamps, and many other small objects; the products are marketed primarily within India, although there is a significant international market.
The Safari concluded with the visit to the Shawl Rafugari unit of Abdul Majeed Parray at Kathi Maidan Zadibal. Kashmir owns the pride of spreading the craft of rafugari (darning) to the rest of the country. Parray pridely says, “no one wants to wear or own a damaged fabric, so the aim of the darner/rafugar is invisibility. He strives to hide the damage. The needlework must be so perfect as to merge with the cloth, damage-unseen.”
The craft safari has received an overwhelming appreciation which has been the main force for the department to continue such tours. It was reiterated on the occasion that three to four Craft Safaris shall be held in coming days focussing to cover all the craft pockets of Srinagar City.
The Craft Safaris are running under the hashtag banner #UNESCOCrafCitySrinagar and the updates are available under the social media heads of the department @dohhkmr.
The cultural heritage of Srinagar lies in the intangible knowledge embodied in the people and community who are its key stakeholders. For any cultural heritage to sustain and grow, it is imperative to have a multifaceted approach ensuring the value and transfer of this knowledge.
Societies in the valley are embedded with a craft culture of its own depicting the contextual understanding of the people who live in them. Such cultural heritage has continued with an unbroken lineage and it is constantly evolving. The Department will continue such activities in future as well.