Artisans seek govt help in exporting products to other states
GANDERBAL: Wickerwork, a well-known art in Kashmir, is slowly fading away as many artisans associated with this industry are switching to other forms of livelihood.
Wicker, a plant species also known as Shallows, is found in the Shalla Bug village of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district. Shalabug was given a Model Village title in 2002 where 6000 people depend on willow work for their livelihood.
The village produces a lot of raw material from locally cultivated willow rushes and reeds.
Villages like Harran, Shalla Bug, Tehlipora, Kachan, and Gundi Rehman are the main centres for this craft. Wickerwork products include basket ducks, chairs, willow basket trays, baskets and many other things. Some of these items are exported traditionally.
Willow work is totally based on hand work. Only hands are used to make beautiful and worthy products. It has been figured out that over the last 50 years; around 90 per cent of artisans have been involved in willow work, with nearly 600 families dependent on this work.
Abdul Karim said that wickerwork is totally based on handwork to make “elegant and worthy” products. The willow items have an attractive face value which makes it precious not only in local markets but they are also exported to foreign countries,” Karim said.
“Willow is mainly used to make baskets, kangri and many other items and ornaments which are usually presented as gifts on weddings, anniversaries and other occasions. It also highlights Kashmir’s culture,” he added.
Mushtaq Ahmed, a willow dealer said they used to make hundreds of sets and export them but due to the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, the business was “massively” hit. “Willow items were exported to various states of India and this contributed to J&K’s economy,” he said.
Ghulam Muhammad Lone, another artisan, said the government should help them export their products to other states of the country, and abroad.
“This profession is dying gradually due to some loopholes on part of the government. Our new generation is not keen to carry forward this craft. The Lieutenant Governor-led administration should intervene to save this craft,” he said.
Due to industrialisation, burgeoning growth in substitute products, rapid changes in consumer tastes and paucity of attention, the handicraft sector in Jammu and Kashmir is slowly losing its place in the market because machine-made products are very cheaper while handmade ones require complex labour work with low-profit margin.