As Srinagar has made it to the coveted list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Crafts and Folk Arts Category for the year 2021, the Handicrafts and Handloom Department, Kashmir has started a Craft Safari. As part of the Safari, the department has identified several artisans and clusters in old Srinagar city. At the same time, the safari has different routes. Going for a safari through a single route will take around 2-3 hours during which you will meet different craftsmen and also come across heritage structures of downtown Srinagar.
Nowshera – a hub of artisans
Last week we discovered Zadibal-Alamgiri Bazaar and today we will see what the Nowshera and Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan belt has to offer. Nowshera and Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan belt is located at a distance of around nine km from the city center Lal Chowk. On this journey, you will come across a Pashmina testing unit and Kashmir carpet center. You will also meet tracing and willow wicker artisans besides going to washing and dyeing units of the area.
PTQCC: Pashmina testing
The fourth edition of the crafts safari starts from the Pashmina Testing and Quality Control Lab (PTQCC) at Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan. The PTQCC has been instrumental in certifying and labeling the genuine handmade Pashmina vis-a-vis hand spun and handwoven Pashmina. To derive economic benefit from GI registration, the Pashmina products are certified and labeled with alpha numeral code for the genuineness and authenticity of the handicraft product. The testing and labeling activities being carried out at the center have shown an increase in growth during the last year due to the rigorous advertisement for the pure pashmina campaign not only on the social media handles of the Handicrafts department but also on the signboards established on all corners of the city as well as on the International Airport Srinagar.
IICT at Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan
The second stop of the fourth edition is at the Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT), Srinagar. The IICT has been mandated to provide technical support to the regional carpet industry through the Human Resource Development Design Creation & Development, Research & Development, and Technical Services & Facilities to the Industry. The Institute has developed 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.
Tracing: Shabir Ahmad Naqash
The next destination of the safari is the tracing Unit of Shabir Ahmad Naqash near the Nalbal Bridge. Here, the people attending the safari can see 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, etc.
Willow wicker: Sadiq Gania
Next, the safari takes you to the willow wicker unit run by Sadiq Gania. At this particular unit, one can see 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 the downtown area.
Washing: Mohd Anees
The unit of washing run by Mohd Anees speaks volumes about the hard work, which can be witnessed during the washing of handicrafts products. The process is not easy as they need delicacy and a hundred percent concentration in terms of maintaining the texture of the products without damaging the same. A slight mistake can prove deadly for the precious handicraft product.
Dyeing: Mustafa Ahmad
The fourth edition of the safari concludes with a visit to the dyeing unit of Mustafa Ahmad. The management of dyeing and its color combination plays an important role in the handicrafts sector.
The Handicrafts Department is presently doing a dry run of sorts of the crafts safari. Few tourism players have already shown interest in these safaris and are expected to attract a good number of niche tourists in the future. The safari of late has generated a lot of interest on social media as well with participants from different walks of life sharing their experiences of meetings with the old city artisans.