Sajad Ahmad Dar, an artisan who makes baskets out of willow wicker, saw his entire livelihood get washed away by the recent floods in Kashmir. Water destroyed the harvested willow crop which left him with no material to work and his completed works found no buyers.
Sajad is now in Delhi for the first time at the Dastkar Winter Mela trying to connect with buyers at the festival which has a special focus on Kashmir. Like Sajad, there are many more artisans who have travelled to the Capital to find a market for their products that have been hand-crafted using traditional skills.
The mela is being organised in association with Commitment to Kashmir (CtoK). The NGO founded in 2011 to support a new generation of crafts persons from Kashmir to find new opportunities both within and outside the Valley.
There are a number of unique crafts that are available for sale like the khatamband woodwork that is used to decorate ceilings. The beauty of making a purchase at the bazaar is that you get to interact with passionate artisans who explain how the product was made as well as share stories of the misery that the flood brought to the Valley.
Hidayat Hussain is running a stall selling Jamawar shawls, which take an artisan seven months to make. He says the process to make the shawls has remained the same but they are working with designers to give the shawls a modern twist to attract new buyers.
Among the artisans is Shabir Ahmad Lone from Baramulla who has started manufacturing portable looms so that women can work in the comfort of their homes. He says a number of looms got destroyed in the flood so it is important that these should be modernised to make them portable. “Just in the way cars, computers and phones keep getting upgraded, looms should also get upgraded to keep the skills alive.”
He has trained 25 women who have now become self-sufficient.
There are also papier mache products that have been made in moulds, not traditionally used by the artisans, to suit the taste of buyers looking to do up modern homes. Carpets, embossed copperware, embroidered and beaten Namda floor coverings, traditional jewellery, food items like saffron, jams, nuts, dry fruits and products made from lavender and other oils are also available.
Keeping with the winter theme, products from other States like quilts, knitted sweaters, capes, gloves and socks are also on sale.
The festival also features Panchtantra Chitra , an exhibition of paintings depicting stories from the Panchtantra, and narrated through different painting and craft styles.
The market is on till December 22 at Nature Bazaar at Andheria Modh.