To commemorate the inspirational women of Kashmir, both from past as well as contemporary times, nine young female artists joined together hands as 'Kashmiri Women's Design Collective' and have come up with a beautiful product in the shape of a calendar for the upcoming year 2019.
The calendar pays tribute to the legendary women of Kashmir who have achieved fame, glory and success in different fields not only in Kashmir but other parts of the world. The calendar has portrayed some of those women as well who have done appreciable work in their lifetime but are lesser known to the general public.
The calendar was conceptualised by Sonth Kashmir – a Kashmiri souvenir brand, run by a Srinagar girl Onaiza Drabu and developed in collaboration with Koshur Lifestyle, an online Kashmir merchandise store owned by Anantnag girl, Sama Bég.
"We wanted to do something new to pay honour to those women whose work has impacted our life," said Sama. "Onaiza and I discussed the idea and contacted some of the brilliant young female artists of Kashmir. We worked together on this product and made it successful."
"Women's work has always been undermined. They didn't receive much recognition in Kashmir. The calendar shines a light on many women who worked in very diverse fields under dire circumstances," adds Sama.
Among those versatile women who have been covered in the calendar are Habba Khatoon, Lal Daed, Arnimal, Ateeqa Bano, Dr Girija Dhar, Raj Begum, Hanifa Chapu, Muriel Pauline (popularly Ms Mallinson) and some others.
"We did research first. We contacted different kinds of people to get the actual facts about these women," said Sama. "They have done extraordinary work throughout their life in different fields like poetry, music, education, and so on."
The calendar also pays tribute to lesser-known women who have contributed well to society but have never been highlighted. These young artists thought to give some recognition to them as well.
Some of the examples in that category are Hanifa Chapu, who was school inspector for district Anantnag, Geyani Mohan Kaur, a Sikh woman from Baramulla, who was headmistress of a government school. In 1947 when Kashmir was going through a terrible period, Kaur used to go door to door to aware people about health and nutrition, especially to new mothers and Ms Mallinson, a Christian missionary woman, who has contributed a lot for women's education particularly in Srinagar city. She was the one who has started extracurricular activities in schools in Kashmir.
Apart from date, each page of calendar derives some inspiration. It carries a portrait of one particular woman and text at the bottom that gives a brief detail about that woman.
These female artists used different types of medium like oil on canvas, three-dimensional art, cartoon illustrations and so on to portray these inspirational women.
The artworks in the calendar have been drawn by eight female Kashmiri artists including Mahvash Masood, Onaiza Drabu, Nusaiba Khan, Sumairha Choudhary, Tuba Nasiem, Ghazal Qadri, Kayehaan Anjum Khan, and Zoya Khan, and Sama Beg has contributed the writings about the woman who has been covered.
"Besides," Sama said, "The calendar also reflects how much talent is present in Kashmir. It was a great experience working with such talented young female artists."
The calendar has one extra page that pays tribute to all of the women of Kashmir who have suffered through the conflict. This page carries the imagery of women victims and small text.
"For centuries, women have played an important role in shaping Kashmiri culture. But very often their contributions have not received the recognition they deserved. This calendar is a small tribute to a few of the women of Kashmir who have – in some way – had an impact on all of our lives," Sama has placed a calendar review on the website. "We came together as the Kashmiri Women's Design Collective to change that. Each artist selected women they resonate with and used different mediums of art to interpret their personalities and contributions."
"As you flip through the months, we hope you find inspiration for the New Year, just as we have. This page pays tribute to all of the women of Kashmir who have suffered throughout the conflict," she says.
The calendar will be released on December 30. It is available both as wall and desk calendar. The price of the desk calendar is Rs. 475 and the price of the wall calendar is Rs 545. The people can buy it from www.koshurwear.com or www.koshurlifestyle.com.
"We are taking pre-orders right now. We have received a lot of orders already," says Sama.
A brief description of the artists:
Mahvash Masood is a full-time artist from Srinagar. She has worked in various mediums – ranging from pashmina, papier mâché, wood as well as oil and acrylics on canvas. She believes art is a powerful medium to talk about the issues related to women and also to showcase the strength and power of women. She teaches as a guest faculty at NIFT, Srinagar.
Onaiza Drabu is an amateur illustrator and took to art as a reaction, not being able to find quality books and content tailored to a Kashmiri audience as a child. She grew up in Srinagar and has been painting since 2010. She is the founder of the stationery brand Sonth Kashmir.
Nusaiba Khan is an artist and architect from Srinagar and co-founder of stationery brand Sonth Kashmir. She works with watercolours and ink on canvas.
Sumairha Choudhary is an architect and self-taught artist originally from Poonch. She works with watercolours and oil on canvas. Currently based in Delhi, she is working on projects to give visual representation and highlight issues faced by the nomadic communities of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sama Bég is a writer, entrepreneur and management consultant from Anantnag. She founded Koshur Lifestyle, an online Kashmir merchandise store, in 2017 after noticing an abundance of products in Kashmir that celebrated foreign identities more than native ones. Koshur Lifestyle attempts to preserve and celebrate Kashmir in contemporary ways.
Tuba Nasiem is a craft artist from Srinagar who works with paper to create handmade and hand-cut pieces of art. She is the founder of 'The Papercity', an art studio that offers handcrafted quilled paper-art and other products.
Ghazal Qadri is an illustrator and product designer from Srinagar. A lover of visual art and humour, she is the creator of the popular Kashmiri Whatsapp stickers, 'KathBath'. Ghazal currently works as an illustrator in Lollypop Design studio, Bangalore.
Kayehaan Anjum Khan is a Kashmiri artist based in Dubai. She works with watercolours, pen and ink. Through her art, Kayehaan tries to depict the mundane, human aspects of Kashmir, which are often lost in the conflict.
Zoya Khan is an architect, interior designer, city planner and digital imaging artist based in Srinagar. Her work is heavily influenced by her understanding of how humans interact with their built environment. Zoya's primary areas of interest are the heritage and vernacular architecture of Kashmir.