CURTAIN RAISER: Srinagar’s dying craft Rafoogari to get new lease of life
With Kashmir's once-popular craft Rafoogari or darning fast sinking into oblivion, authorities have woken up to help revive the art by imparting specialised training among the artisans in the summer capital Srinagar from Monday.
Rafoogari is a specialised technique traditionally used to mend holes or worn areas in fabrics, using needle and thread alone. The technique involves matching colour and weave of the fabric so that a repaired patch merges with the rest of the fabric.
"Rafoogari is a gradually-declining craft especially in Srinagar. As part of our efforts for its revival, we have roped in two expert darners from Najibabad Uttar Pradesh to impart training to shawl weavers and needle work artisans in Srinagar," convener of the J&K chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Muhammad Saleem Beg, told Greater Kashmir.
The INTACH Kashmir chapter in collaboration with Community, Craft and Heritage Division INTACH, New Delhi and SPS Museum is organisingRafoogari workshop from September 17 to 22, at the SPS Museum here.
Beg said that Najibabad is popular for Rafoogars who are known for restoring old shawls. "There is huge potential for textile conservation in Srinagar. Due to less availability of Rafoogars, there is growing demand for repairs of costly shawls like Pashmima and Shahtoosh besides Jamavars," he said.
"We want to upgrade skills of existing Rafoogars and needle work artisans to create market for textile conservation in Srinagar and simultaneously generate revenue and employment avenues," Beg added.
In the first phase, 19 persons including embroidery artisans from Srinagar have been selected to undergo the training in the workshop.
Saima Iqbal, conservation architect at INTACH said that the artisans will be imparted training in their traditional working conditions. "Besides reviving Rafoogari, it is our endeavour that the craft should pass on to younger generation. We will provide them a platform to promote the craft in a modern way," she said.
Noted columnist and author ZG Muhammad said that Srinagar possessed best darners till 1980. "Manufacturing of woolen chadar was a cottage industry in Kashmir. Roofoogars including women used to repair the torn or burnt chadars and then it was converted into patu for making coats and pheran," he said.
"Rafoogars used to mostly sit outside dry clean shops. They were usually well dressed and donned thick spectacles. Until over three decades ago, Rafoogars were in much demand as clothes were expensive and people usually preferred to repair them due to abject poverty," he added.
Shawl manufacturers have hailed measures to revive the craft of Rafoogari. "The craft is facing threat of extinction as younger generation of Rafoogars did not carry it forward. In absence of Rafoogars in Srinagar, our customers face problems to repair their costly and antique shawls. With no other option here, we have to send shawls to other states for repairs which is time consuming and costly affair," said prominent handicraft trader, Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo, suggesting that INTACH should impart Rafoogari training to artisans in villages also. "The craft should be revived at grassroots."