Kashmiri paper mache makes it big in Christmas

By Qiesar Baba

Srinagar If it is Christmas, it has to be Kashmir’s famed paper mache products made by Iqbal Hussain Khan.
Celebrations, particularly during Christmas, in Europe are deemed incomplete without the unique Paper Mache items created and exported by the artisan Iqbal Khan.
National award winner Iqbal Khan, 60, is busy dispatching thousands of paper mache art and craft items for customers in India and European countries ahead of December 25.
Khan, honoured with the “Certificate of Merit” by the Ministry of Textiles in 2003 and the National Award in 2007 for excellence in paper mache art and craft, told UNI that he learnt everything from his uncle Ghulam Hussain from the age of 10 years.
Khan, who has no formal educational qualification, won the National Award for crafting and designing a unique paper mache jewelry box donned with pure gold flower art work.
“I am pursuing my case now for ‘Padma Shri’ award as my art and craft work has been globally recognized,” he said.
Paper mache products have been made by a sect of people in Kashmir since it was introduced to India in the 14th century by Persian mystic Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, who came from Persia to Kashmir and brought skilled artisans and craftsmen with him.
With the passage of time, Kashmiri artisans added their own flavour to the art form, winning them attention all around the world.
Khan said: “We receive orders from Cottage Industries in Delhi as well as from customers in European countries on Christmas eve for colorful balls painted with Santa, Bells, Stars, Moon, hangings of Heart, jewelry box, table lamps and many more items.
“There are hundreds of other beautiful items which are being crafted and created in Kashmir.
“As soon as Christmas is over, new orders pour in,” he said. “Hundreds of artisans including men and women are being engaged to meet the demand every year.”
He said that it takes two to three months before Christmas celebrations to prepare all orders and parcel and courier them to their destinations.
Running his unit under the name “Khan Brothers” in Alamgari Bazar in Qazidori in downtown Srinagar, Khan said: ‘My items are marketed in America, Germany, France, England, Australia and many European countries.

“People love our art work as these are prepared only in Kashmir. Foreigners keeping our unique items in their homes as decoration. They are also gifted to relatives and friends.”

He admitted that the demand for paper mache items was poor in the local market, but we get big orders from Cottage Industries of Delhi.

The Covid-19 pandemic did hit Khan very hard. “It was a very tough time for the craftsmen associated with this trade.

“We appeal to the Indian government of India and Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to announce a special package for these craftsmen who suffered huge losses due to the pandemic during the past two years,” he said. (UNI)

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