Srinagar: Shahnawaz Ahmad Sofi is a graduate of the Institute of Music and Fine Arts who loves colour and portraiture. After earning his degree in 2003, he started working for his family’s carpet company in Old Srinagar and began doing something that had never been done in Kashmir.
In Kashmir, there aren’t many people who weave Pashmina carpets, so he abandoned traditional carpet designs and started making his own Pashmina carpets. Many people in the Valley agree with him and describe his work as “distinctive.”
His most recent creation was a carpet with the FIFA World Cup logo etched into it that was displayed during the Qatar World Football Cup. Many people praised his presentation and design.
“I had good fortune to design the FIFA World Cup logo for the carpet that was presented during the international tournament. This is just the beginning, and I hope that it will lead to further opportunities for Kashmiri carpet weavers who will now be hired to create such goods for several events hosted across the world,” Sofi told Greater Kashmir.
Some wall-hanging carpets that Sofi created feature artwork of the UAE’s rulers. In addition to calligraphic painting on the carpets, he claims that clients in the UAE prefer this style of carpet artwork. He designed carpets covered in paintings of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
After lengthy consultation and deliberation with his father, Gul Muhammad Sofi, and his weavers, he initially started Pashmina Carpet designing.
He minces no words to say that “my father, weavers were all terrified initially.” Pashmina raw material is expensive, it takes weavers months to produce a single piece, and we were unsure of the market’s reaction. They had good reason to be anxious about carrying out the plan,” Sofi claims.
He began creating miniature wall-hanging carpets using the calligraphy of holy Quran. He sold these to Gulf nations.
The 2008 recession had a negative impact on the market. “At that time, I offered smaller Pashmina rugs for sale as luxury goods. Even in a downturn, it was effective. As they have a market, I started making larger-sized carpets this year,” he continues, displaying his most recent Pashmina carpet creations.
“Kashmiris who work in the carpet industry need to understand what the public wants. We need to look at the popular modern styles, colours, and patterns, and then display our work in accordance with such things, he says.
According to Sofi, the likelihood of selling fake Kashmiri crafts has significantly decreased since the GI certification of Kashmiri carpets, which has led to strong demand for them all over the world.
Kashmiri carpets were given the GI tag by the Geographical Indication Registry of the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in June 2016, however, the recognised carpets began to appear in March 2022.
Mahmood Shah, director of handicrafts and handloom, cited Sofi’s instance as an illustration of the potential of the trade.
“By verifying the genuineness of the Hand-knotted Kashmir Carpets with pertinent information of the producer, weaver, district, raw material, the introduction of GI tag for carpets helped to revive the luster and grandeur of the Kashmiri Carpet Industry.”
Shah believes that the development will significantly contribute to maintaining the calibre of hand-knotted carpets.