Srinagar’s ‘World Craft City’ tag, allows Kashmir to re-connect globally

Saleem Beg, head of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage-Kashmir (INTACH-K), described the honour as “the latest recognition of the skill base of Kashmir”

Updated - June 25, 2024 06:53 am IST

Published - June 25, 2024 02:53 am IST - SRINAGAR

A worker craft Kashmiri willow wood cricket bats at a factory in Kashmir’s Sangam village. File

A worker craft Kashmiri willow wood cricket bats at a factory in Kashmir’s Sangam village. File | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

Srinagar has earned the World Craft City (WCC) tag from the World Crafts Council (WCC), a non-government organisation working to empower artisans and safeguard craft heritage globally. This is likely to reopen Kashmir’s centuries old linkages with craft centres in Central Asia and Iran.

The executive board of the WCC, in a formal communication to officials of J&K, said on Sunday that Srinagar city has earned the designation of WCC-World Craft City, from members of the Council’s sub-committee after a detailed tour of craft centres earlier this year.

“I, as President of the World Crafts Council AISBL, would like to extend our congratulations to you, your team, the citizens, and the craftspeople of Srinagar on the city’s accreditation as “WCC-World Craft City,” Saad al-Qaddumi, president of the WCC AISBL, said.

4,000-year history

The fresh recognition for a city with more than 4,000 years of written history has put the spotlight on a place that has created masterpieces in different art sectors, especially shawls, carpets, papier mache, etc. The craft scene witnessed a major change in the 14th Century, with the arrival of Persian and Central Asian preachers and artisans.

Saleem Beg, head of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage-Kashmir (INTACH-K), described the world craft city tag as “the latest recognition of the skill base of Kashmir.”

“The Council is the modern-day means and medium to put the focus on places that have been engaged in creativity and aesthetics for centuries. This will provide a boost to Kashmir’s traditional linkages with Central Asia and Iran. There are 14 Iranian cities listed as craft cities by the Council, and the inclusion of Srinagar will lead to knowledge exchange. The last century saw Kashmir’s traditional routes slowly closing down, the WCC has provided a new highway for Kashmir’s artisans to achieve a new trajectory,” Mr. Beg told The Hindu. 

Kashmir’s shawl and carpet industry has been heavily influenced by Persian artisans in the past. “We have carpet designs named after Iranian cities like Kashan and Tabriz,” Mr. Beg said.

Promote craftsmen

In 2021, Srinagar also earned the title of UNESCO Creative City under Crafts and Folk Art. With the spotlight shining brightly on Kashmir’s craft scene again, after several decades of obscurity, the sector has been infused with new energy. “This is a much-needed recognition for unsung craftsmen who have created masterpieces for generations. It will help promote genuine crafts and craftsmen. Kashmir’s craft scene is witnessing a revival with Geographical Indication tags, crafts tours, and the policies of the handicrafts and handloom department,” Mahmood Ahmed Shah, Director, Handicrafts and Handloom Industries, Kashmir, said. 

Kashmir’s handicraft sector is witnessing major economic gains, with exports in the last five years jumping from Rs. 1,000 to 2,000 crores, according to official figures. Artisans are also reaping the benefits of this upward mobility in the craft sector.

“The World Craft Council tag for Srinagar will help artisans in the long term by enhancing global recognition and demand for our handicrafts. It will provide opportunities for sustainable income through increased sales and tourism. It will support skill preservation, cultural heritage, and access to networks for collaboration and growth,” Mujtaba Qadri, owner of the label Me&K and a craft revivalist, said.

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