‘Kral koor’: Meet 29-year-old civil engineer who has embarked on mission to revive pottery in Kashmir
Srinagar: Twenty-nine-year-old Saima Shafi was on a family trip to Chandigarh in 2009, when they visited a village known for its pottery.
A painting enthusiast, Saima was attracted by beautiful earthenware. Not knowing that pottery was beyond making piggybanks, Saima bought a decorative pot for her home.
Back home, the pottery had hit a dead end with young generation giving up the craft because of low returns and stigma.
Pained by the dying art, she decided to break the taboo and embarked on a mission to revive the pottery in Kashmir.
“After Chandigarh tour, I joined a job. But the thought of reviving pottery always played in my mind. In 2016, I took a decision to make it my passion,” Saima said.
Known as `kraal koor’ (potter girl) Saima, a civil engineer in Public Works Department, introduced a concept of modern art pottery in Kashmir.
However, there were no takers for modern pottery. She contacted local potters, but they were no enthused by the new concept. Even Jammu and Kashmir had no institute that focused on pottery.
“There were some potters, but they didn’t know anything about modern pottery. Finally, in 2016, I searched online about pottery institutes. I had two options to study pottery either in New Delhi or Bangalore. I enrolled in Bangalore institute for a crash course in modern art pottery,” Saima said.
In Bangalore, Saima was surprised to see that pottery art was used to make jewelry and other decorative items.
“I had a concept of just Tambaknaeri (an earthenware which is used as a musical instrument) piggy banks. The crash course broadened my vision about pottery,” she said.
Saima last year established her pottery studio in Srinagar. This is the first such modern pottery institute in the valley.
“I bought some machinery and stoneware clay from New Delhi. Now I am getting in touch with potters to train them in modern art pottery so that they can once again earn a livelihood,” she said.
Saima said the pottery art has declined to the extent that it has become a taboo in Kashmir.
“Potters are looked down upon in Kashmir. I have been getting constant messages from youth from potters’ families. They are being bullied or treated badly. So one has to stand up and revive the art,” she said.