BENGALURU: Ask Inshada Bashir on what inspired her to push for revival of the diminished state of crafts in Kashmir, and the 26-year-old artisan entrepreneur who hails from Hanjiwara, Baramulla, candidly expresses her love for crafts, especially, Aari embroidery.
Bashir was in Bengaluru for Kashmiriyat, an exhibition presented by Commitment to Kashmir and dedicated towards showcasing of products developed by blend of contemporary design with Kashmir’s traditional hand skills.
Speaking to CE, Bashir reflected on how her passion for craft came at a later stage in her life. “My grandfather and father were farmers but due to financial issues, my father moved on to carpet weaving – of which he had faint knowledge – and went on to learn the craft and set up his own manufacturing business,” she says.
Bashir, who had pursued a BSE in fisheries, had a change of mind when she came across the state of crafts in the Valley. She went on to pursue masters in Craft Management and Entrepreneurship from CDI, Srinagar, with an aim to do her bit for crafts there. “For girls in Kashmir, there is a considerable amount of pressure when it comes to choosing career paths.
We are often told to choose a teacher’s post since it is ‘best suited’ but I had other plans,” she says.
Bashir emphasised on the diminishing number of people pursuing crafts in the Valley, which has also resulted in a decline in various craft forms. “Kashmiri crafts have influences from Central Asia and Persia, and Aari embroidery is hook-work which is done using cotton thread and staple thread. I had showcased bags, cushion covers and stoles, all of which showcase Aari Embroidery at the exhibition here. People from other states come to Jammu and Kashmir with an interest to learn our crafts but within the Valley, the interests have only diminished” says Bashir.
She adds that artisans don’t find it feasible enough but the bigger issue is the lack of social recognition, which has served as a roadblock.
“There is lack of awareness and I have personally visited various craft communities for my academic projects. Each of them expressed hesitation on allowing their children to pursue the profession due to lack of recognition and appreciation. Wages are not the bigger issue but the role of society is,” she explains.
In a Valley where over 60 per cent of its population is solely dependent on the art and craft sector, Bashir reflected on the difficulties one has to face on a daily basis due to the current unrest.
“I would go to a nearby CRPF camp in order to make phone calls, which are limited to one minute. Without basic facilities, you can’t operate a business. I missed out on various opportunities because of the communication blockade. There is a lot of risk to operate a business in the Valley because you never know when the situation might take a turn for the worse. This has also resulted in a massive impact on the sector.”
Bashir feels that the very essence of craft in Kashmir is on the path of revival, with fellow young artisan entrepreneurs breathing in a new perspective. “People love hand-made products because there are certain things a machine can never recreate,” she says.