An Artist Dies, his Lonely Creation Struggles to Live
Bismah Malik (Kashmir Times)
Srinagar: In a place where art exhibitions, museums and galleries have been restricted to leisure for the rich and famous, the very people who are the building blocks of art die in oblivion. This holds true for Khazir Mohd Qasba an artist who had achieved pinnacle of his art, truly manifested in ‘the lonely tree’, he carved out of walnut wood in reminiscence of a quince apple tee of his childhood days. Khazir died at the age of 85 on March 26, this year living behind a legacy, his sons are unwilling to inherit.
“He was a genius craftsman, an artist who looked beyond the usual art that could earn him big bucks. Unfortunately, the genius in him failed to get proper recognition, forget about generating a sizeable income for the family. Like his lonely tree, this master craftsman’s art was also rendered lonely, finding literally no takers,” Muzaffar Jan Qasba, the son of Khazir Mohd Qasba shares.
Unable to find its much deserved place in the art galleries and museums of the state, Qasba’s lonely tree may eventually land in a New York Museum, especially due to efforts of a few philanthropists -a noted academician and social activist like Agha Ashraf Ali and film maker, Aijaz Rashid who gave the name “lonely tree” to this art marvel of Qasba and also prepared a short documentary on the sculpture.
For all his life, Qasba could not get the state authorities/ bureaucrats help him preserve one of the finest masterpieces or showcase it in front of the audience which could truly admire its genius.
The Lonely Tree, which according to craftsmen, could garner more than Rs 50 lakhs easily fetched Qasba Rs one lakh. Agha Ashraf Ali, who has kept the Lonely Tree in his possession says that almost all authorities right from Ghulam Nabi Azad, State Handicrafts Department to Sonia Gandhi though initially showed some interest, eventually they failed to help people like Qasba achieve their true status.
Back in his residence cum workshop at Rainawari Srinagar, Qasba’s students and sons who learned the craft from their gifted guide are unwilling to take up this profession as it does not even promise them a suitable sustenance.
“My father loved this art more than his life. However, the cold shoulder shown by the Handicraft Department when we quoted the price of Rs 8 lakhs and later by the then Chief Minister in 2008 , Ghulam Nabi Azad and his Chief Secretary , Vijay Bakaya drained the hope out of him and his followers. The truth is the State Handicraft Department and Arts emporium, besides various museums have no connection with the art. They are mere bureaucrats and employees who get salaries for nothing, whereas the art creators struggle for recognition,” Muzaffar Jan says.
Today, even when an artist like Qasba is no more, his genius “Lonely Tree” might also die a slow death.
Unlike the oft encountered paper machie and walnut products, Lonely Tree is an intricately carved piece of art made from a single piece of walnut tree trunk weighing 50 kilograms. The beauty of this artifact shows in little details Qasba has endowed the tree with like branches, leaves, apples, birds and butterflies which took at least three years to complete.
Among his many works of art included a recreation of the Hari Parbat Fort atop a hill, exquisite jewellery in sandalwood pandav rings in walnut wood and a grapevine with four birds which Qasba used to call two bird couples.
One really finds it hard to believe that though the government is ready to spend whopping amounts on the construction of luxuriant museums and galleries, but has no money to spend on revival of art which actually is being killed and not dying a natural death.
There are many likes of Khazir Mohammad Qasba who really have the kind of talent and will in them that they want to pursue the indigenous art , but then again the denial of platform and recognition to them writes them off and their woks like “The Lonely Tree” craves for support.