Diminishing Arts and Crafts of Kashmir
Dr. Farooq Ahmad Peer
The arts and crafts of Kashmir reflect the emotional life of Kashmiris. During my childhood, I had a chance of seeing some of the most fantastic works by some major personalities of arts and crafts culture. The hard work put into their craft oozed out from the material they made. Their material was fine and looked well-tuned. The art and craft, be it Papier-Mâché, Wood Carving, Carpet, Shawl, Pottery, Embroidery and Iron-Warring, all looked delightful and appealing to the eye. Never in my life, had I come across something with regard to art and craft that demanded respect I had for these artists. I always felt that the toil and drudgery put into the making of a material would remain the same, but my perception was changed a few days back.
Just, I had a chance of meeting some of the new artists from Kashmir who had recently honoured their skills in this field. The artists who introduced themselves as new comers looked all set to try their luck in this field. I asked them to show me some of their fine works. They put forward before me a bundle of Papier-Mache balls, Carpet samples, embroidery pieces, Iron-Warring, delicate pieces of Pottery, Wood carving and Shawl making. I picked up the pieces one by one, trying to see them as minutely as I could and trying to observe every bit of the information I could gather from them. I could sense that the way of making art had changed. The finishing touches in the earlier crafts which were clearly visible to the eye had gone. Even the thinking had changed. The old art and craft legends had done their craft for the passion that they shared for this job. But I could not perceive this passion from the works that the present group of artists are doing in our valley which was gorgeous in this culture two decades before. The contemporary artists of the valley have elapsed what the word passion means and have supplanted this with the desire of earning money. I ruminated about this and the riposte I received from my mind was the art for which Kashmir had has proud is devalued, diminishing and declining and its ashes are surviving and waiting to be cremated for the sake of money. Paradoxically, the show casers indicated that their families or ancestors have been doing this sensitive job since decades/ a century.
Days later, I visited the Museum of the School of Designing of the Handicrafts Department to carve out the real datum’s and see for myself whether the present group of artists I had seen were just an exception or had the whole group of artists taken to this route? As I entered the School of Designing showcase room, I clearly sensed a difference between the present and past works. The older works manifested, as it were the allegorical language of the passions and the virtues of the people of Kashmir. Some of the works and the marvelous examples of craft told the story of the famous personages; others depicted historical episodes, poetic fantasies or religious and philosophical themes. All these emanated from the mind of the designer or the crafts man whose free-hand drawing was astonishingly accurate. He was inspired by Nature, which was his instructor. Since art in human civilization is social expression, the artist or the craftsman did not merely emit his individual mood or quirk, but he explicated with loving artistic meticulousness, in the very universal language of art what he felt worthy of replica in his milieu and to this went a wealth of upkeep and imagination. Though patronised by the ruler or government and encouraged by the nobility of the time, the true artist worked under the pressure of his own creative urge which our present artists have left somewhere far behind.
We all must think seriously about our past graceful culture which would lure the tourists of the world to our Valley. (Greater Kashmir)