Kashmir Valley in general and Srinagar in particular is the richest place in terms of cultural heritage as it has an everlasting collection of arts and crafts. The handcrafted artifacts hold the pride of being personal artistic expressions, symbols of heritage, identity and sources of livelihood for the artisans. On the other hand, these artifacts form a significant part to facilitate household chores, souvenirs, a source of beauty and a mark of refined taste.

Taking it to the next level the department of Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir today continued the Craft Safari post recognition of Srinagar in the UNESCO creative city network in the field of Craft and Folk Art in its fourth edition. This safari was uniquely blended with the visits to artisans’ workplaces and the aide institutions of the craft.

The team of the officers from the Handicrafts and Handloom Department, Intellectuals, Academic Scholars, Journalists, Tour Operators, Students and other fields, snuggled in their warm winter apparels gathered and started the new year and the craft safari from the Pashmina Testing and Quality Control Lab (PTQCC) at Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan, Srinagar.

The PTQCC has been instrumental in certifying and labeling the genuine handmade Pashmina viz a viz Hand Spun and Hand Woven Pashmina. To derive economic benefit from GI registration, the Pashmina products are certified and labeled with alpha numeric code for the genuineness and authenticity of the handicraft product. The testing and labeling activities being carried out at the centre have shown an increase in growth during the last year due to the rigorous advertisement for pure pashmina campaign not only on the social media handles of the department but also on the sign boards established on all corners of the city as well as on the International Airport Srinagar

Braving the chill, the team preceded to the Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT), Srinagar. The IICT has been mandated to provide technical support to regional Carpet Industry through Human Resource Development Design Creation & Development, Research & Development and Technical Services & Facilities to the Industry. The Institute has developed a unique Carpet Design Software wherein the carpet designs are created, developed and automatically converted into Taleem Scripts and the design thus created is preserved forever.

This innovation has eased the design work enormously as it used to take months together for a group of persons, comprising of Naqash (Designer), Taleem Writer and a Taleem Copyist, to make a carpet design of standard size and transfer the design drafted on graph paper into the coded pattern known as taleem in the local language. The Institute has created a Design Bank in the digital form for the carpet craft. The digitization of handwritten Taleem papers of more than 350 traditional carpet designs have been preserved in the soft form which can be recreated as per the prevalent market requirements for further development.

The team continued its 4th edition of the safari to the workplaces of Shabir Ahmad Naqash, Sadiq Gania, Mohd Anees and Mustafa Ahmad which run the units of Tracing, Willow Wicker, Washing and Dyeing, respectively in the adjoining areas of Nowshera belt of Srinagar

In the tracing Unit of Shabir Ahmad Naqash, Near Nalbal Bridge, the team visualized how the different patterns are 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 tracing is regarded as the initial process of embroidery works of Sozni, Ari and likes of same.

The team in the willow wicker unit run by Sadiq Gania beheld that the artisans use the delicate interweaving of willow stems for making aesthetic products which not only look beautiful but also have a real utility. Gania is one of the rare artisans engaged in the craft of Willow wicker in Srinagar Downtown area.

The unit of Washing run by Mohd Anees speaks voluminous about the hard work they are playing in the washing of handicrafts products as they need delicacy and cent percent concentration in terms of maintaining the texture of the products without damaging the same.

The safari was concluded by the visiting team to the Dyeing unit of Mustafa Ahmad. The management of dyeing and its colour combination plays an important role in the crafts sector and are regarded as the turning point in fetching the market and its game play.

The artisans are versatile and varied. There is diversity found in the skills that an artisan has been carrying old traditions to various arts and crafts. Retaining the indigenousness of the skills, the artists have successfully refined them at the same time. Thus, the artisans are praised for presenting the fusing of trend and tradition, with the amalgamation of legacy and developing art forms.

The craft safari has been appreciated not only by the local inhabitants but also the people associated with the glamour world. The tour operators hailing outside the UT and have well established business are showing interest to be part of these events and explore the crafts of Kashmir in order to take them to newer heights at global level.

The department is going to programme such tours routinely in coming days to focus each craft of the city under the hashtag banner #UNESCOCraftCity Srinagar. The updates are available on the departmental social media handles @dohhkmr.

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