Srinagar: Riaz Ahmed Khan, Kashmir’s top-notch ‘sozni’ artisan who was once awarded by the Indian Association of Greater Boston for promoting ‘Indo-US cultural exchange’, now works as a labourer to make his ends meet.
Hailing from the Kathi Darwaza area of the old city, Raiz works as a construction labourer to support his family. Though his wife Rehana still does ‘sozni’ work from her home, she says a dip in demand for their craft had forced her husband into ‘Kani mazdoori’.
“My husband has gone for Kani mazdoori…in fact, he goes in search of labour work every day. Even though he was awarded by the Indian Association of Greater Boston in 1987 and received accolades from others too in and outside Kashmir for his intricate sozni work, there is little demand for our craft now. That is why he has been forced into Kani mazdoori,” Rehana told The Kashmir Monitor.
Pointing to the shawl on her knees on which she was currently doing ‘sozni’ work, Rehana said they were still clinging on to their family profession.
“However, I still do sozni work as it is our family profession and we do not want to leave it. I hope the demand for sozni grows like before and the government creates more avenues for us,” she said.
Riaz’s brother Maqsood Khan, who is also into ‘sozni’ work, said he was hopeful that the Craft Safari initiated by the Handicrafts Department recently will come to their rescue.
“Our family has been doing sozni embroidery for over a century now. We are hopeful that Craft Safari will bring buyers to our workplaces if it becomes a regular feature. The government should also provide us more space to display our work at exhibitions and other events so that the good old days’ return for us,” Maqsood told The Kashmir Monitor while displaying the certificate of the Indian Association of Greater Boston.
“Certificate of Distinction presented to Riyaz Ahmed Khan in recognition of service rendered to the Boston Museum of Science to promote Indo-US cultural exchange,” reads the certificate dated September 10, 1987.
An official of the Handicrafts Department said the Khan family had ‘mastered the art of sozni embroidery for over a century.
“Sozni, also known as sozankari, is a type of Kashmiri embroidery that uses fine needles and silk threads to adorn delicate pieces of Pashmina. Thousands of delicate stitches are used to weave abstract geometrical motifs and designs of paisley, florals, and formalized replications of nature on pashmina or other costly fabrics. The Khan family has mastered the art of sozni embroidery for over a century,” he said.
The Khan family located at Kathi Darwaza has been included in the ‘Srinagar Crafts Safari’. The safari was started in the wake of Srinagar making it to the coveted list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Crafts and Folk Arts Category for the year 2021.