WB-funded project to 'rejuvenate' Kashmir's dying papier-mâché art

With an aim to rejuvenate the dying papier-mâché art in the Downtown here, a World Bank funded scheme under Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP) is endeavouring to connect artisans with the vibrant market.

According to officials at JTFRP, the allotted cost of the livelihood project is Rs 2.18 crore which would focus on the skill enhancement of the new comers (aspiring artisans) and the advanced training of the master trainers of the papier-mâché art.

The project is being implemented by the Department of Industries and Commerce.

The officials said that under the scheme, there would be an end-to-end cluster development at Zadibal area in the Downtown here in papier-mâché craft.

“We are aiming to establish sustainable artisan-owned institutions,” Chief Executive Officer, Economic Reconstruction Agency (JTFRP), Dr Syed Abid Rasheed Shah said.

“Currently few batches of papier-mâché artisans are undergoing skill upgradation and design product development courses,” he said, adding that under the scheme, the experts are aiming to create marketing linkages, building a pipeline of orders for artisan institutions and facilitating participation in marketing events.

He said that under the project, the experts are carrying out several pro-artisan activities including “diagnostic study, skill assessment, up-gradation and capacity building of around 600 artisans.”

Under the project, the area experts are also conducting product development and training, marketing, market development, branding, registration of artisan institutions, producer collectives’ production, quality & packaging training for the artisans.

“We are also planning to establish a common facility centre which will generate business of around Rs 3 crore with the cluster in 3-year period,” Dr Shah said.

According to artisans, the decade of the 1980s was the golden era for the papier-mâché trade.  “It is always fascinating to observe the art of papier-mâché as to how an artist brings to life an object with the motifs of Chinar in soulful colour combinations and breath taking symmetry,” they said.

“The artwork is very intricate. It takes many years for a person to learn how to hold a brush and draw the floral designs on various objects,” said master artisan and a trainer at Zadibal Cluster, Rafiq Ahmad Joo.

“The exquisite strokes of the brush are the artistic genius and one is fascinated to see the excellent displays of this art at many historical places.”

Nodal Officer, Industries and Commerce Department, Sajid Nazir, said that the pecuniary rewards and global recognition have already brought the artisans fame. “We are working to bring financial securities to the artists and also doing our bit to preserve and promote this art,” he said.

“These artisans have lived a dignified life in the society. But then a lot changed and this sector got majorly hit. We hope under this project, we will be able to bring some relief to the artisans of papier-mâché.”

Pertinently, papier-mâché is one of the most delicate handicrafts of Kashmir. Making papier-mâché products has two essential processes which involves making of the object and cleaning of forest pine Kaylier (one of the pine varieties).

It is believed that the craft has travelled from Iran to Kashmir and was introduced by king Zainul Abidin. Iranian name of the craft is Kari Qalamdane meaning a pen stand.