12 Nov From the Namdas to the cement Bags – Embroideries of the Bakarwal
We have just spend ﬁfteen days in the valley of Srinagar visiting workshops and trying to meet grassroot artisans. The task was difﬁcult but at least, we came back with a watered-down vision of how dangerous the place is and a distinct vision on Kashmir crafts.
Kashmiri crafts are well known to be beautiful and rich. However, by talking to artisans it becomes obvious that Kashmir crafts also remain traditional with little change over the last decades other than the artisans’ self-esteem. They are suffering from a lack of support and marketing. There is a decline in sales and no efforts are coming from the state to develop or document the crafts sector. Income instability and no perspective of development get them quitting their job to sell vegetables. Most of the artisans are in charge of a family of 5-6 people and earning 60 rupees per item is not sufﬁcient to live a digniﬁed life.
The situation is different when initiatives are operating. For instance, we met craftswomen who were exploring new designs in Pahalgam, a village located 80 km South-East of Srinagar. Over there, Shepherd Crafts’ initiative acts to promote and retail crafts from the Gujjar and Bakarwal communities. The responsible investments of Shepherd Crafts encourages the women’s creativity and responsibility.
By providing material, infrastructures and salary, the embroidery craft is reviving. Not only is the younger generation learning from their elders but they are also experimenting new crafts. The embroidered cement bags made by the Bakarwal perfectly illustrates this craft renewal.
Bakarwal saddle pads seem to be directly inspired from the Namdas. The simple making process of the embroidered cement bags has a lot in common with the traditional rug.