Srinagar: People associated with the handicrafts sector in Kashmir often complain of depressed sales but a papier-mache unit in ‘Shehr-e-Khaas’ attracts buyers ranging from Ambanis to high-end clients in the Middle East.
At ‘Shah Handicrafts’ – the papier-mache unit of Syed Amjad Ali in Zadibal, one can come across a range of varied products like a customized Diwali gift box that was once made for Nita and Mukesh Ambani to a hookah made of papier-mache.
2000 gift boxes for Ambanis
“I started this papier-mache business on my own and it was not a family business. Though we sell regular products too, we have catered to high-end clients all over the world including the Middle East. In 2018, we delivered 2000 customized pieces to the Ambanis ahead of Diwali,” Ali told The Kashmir Monitor.
Well-known Kashmir businessman Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo said the products available at the ‘Shah Handicrafts’ were matchless.
“When I used to go to (famous craft shop at the Jhelum bund) ‘Suffering Moses’ 40 years back, I would see the same quality products. These products are matchless. For example, look at this product…..it is called ‘Gulandar Gul’. Look at its color, you will find this color scheme in most of the Iranian shrines. It is hard to find,” Wangnoo told The Kashmir Monitor.
He made the comments while pointing to a round papier mache product. Interestingly, Wangnoo himself caters to high-end customers across the globe including the Clintons in the US.
‘Shah Handicrafts’ on Srinagar Crafts Safari itinerary
Incidentally, this particular papier-mache unit has been included in the ‘Srinagar Crafts Safari’ that has been started by the Handicrafts Department recently. 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.
Director, Handicrafts and Handloom, Kashmir, Mahmood Ahmad Shah said they had started the Srinagar Craft Safari as part of efforts to give a boost to the handicrafts sector.
“We have started the Srinagar Craft Safari in different parts of old Srinagar city so that the people come to know about the rich handicraft products. Through the safari, people will also meet the artisans and see how different handicraft products are made,” Shah told The Kashmir Monitor.
Srinagar sixth Indian city on UNESCO list
This year, Srinagar’s application was forwarded to UNESCO on June 29 by the Government of India (GoI) and now this nomination is the global recognition to the rich craft legacy of Srinagar. Pertinently, the dossier for nomination for Srinagar as creative city was first filed by Srinagar in 2019. However, only two cities – Hyderabad for Gastronomy and Mumbai for Film were chosen that year. Prior to 2019, only three Indian cities had been recognized as members of creative cities – Jaipur (Crafts and Folk Arts) in 2015, Varanasi (Creative city of Music) in 2015, and Chennai (Creative city of Music) in 2017.