Kashmir’s centuries-old craft stories get NIFT’s nudge

Artisans in Kashmir suffer from low remuneration and taboos, the Director of the premier institution said, ‘We need to fight this together. The NIFT can play its role by producing designers, who could start their own labels’

Published - January 24, 2024 12:18 am IST - SRINAGAR

Image used for representative purpose only.

Image used for representative purpose only. | Photo Credit: ANI

Kashmir’s centuries-old art and craft has received a shot in the arm with the presence in Srinagar of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), which is at the forefront of bridging the gap between craftspeople and new technological tools. 

“We have filled the gap that existed in Kashmir’s craft story. Students of the NIFT, who come from all parts of the country, are constantly encouraged to work with artisans living in different clusters in the valley — from carpets to shawls to paper mache,” Javid Ahmad Wani, Campus Director, told The Hindu.

He said students and artisans were engaged in a rare exchange of ideas and craft skills. “This exercise is opening up artisans to the new technological tools that are available, and the students get hands-on experience of Kashmir’s intricate and exquisite arts and crafts. It’s bringing technological and design interfaces to enhance the master hands of artisans,” Prof. Wani said.

Set up in Srinagar in 2016, the Srinagar campus of NIFT has successfully dispelled negative notions about the fashion and design industry. “There has been a very conservative idea about the courses offered by the NIFT in Kashmir. It hovered between tailoring and the [fashion] ramp. However, such a notion is waning about the design industry,” Syed Hoorain Jeelani, a student at NIFT, said.

With students from across the country opting for the Srinagar campus, the students’ diversity has brought new exposure for artisans, too. “Our students from outside J&K have already worked on different mediums like tilla and willow to open up the imagination of local artisans,” Kaunain Zubair, another student, said.

In a major outreach to local artisans on its foundation day, observed on January 22 at Budgam’s Ompora, the NIFT felicitated Abdul Majeed Dar, an exceptional tweed weaver from Bandipora; Iqbal Hussain Wani, a seasoned craftsperson of papier mache in Srinagar’s Zadibal area; and Abdul Gafar Sheikh, a carpet weaver from Baramulla’s Tangmarg.

Mr. Wani said artisans in Kashmir suffer from low remuneration and taboos. “We need to fight this together. The NIFT can play its role by producing designers, who could start their own labels,” Mr. Wani said.

The NIFT is offering special quotas for wards of artisans to facilitate their admission. “We offer scholarships and fee rebates to such students, who come from families of artisans,” he added.

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