Cultural festival: Folk artists pay ode to all things Kashmiri

Folk music, dance and cuisine keeping visitors captivated at Lok Virsa.

Artisans from different parts of the country have been the highlight of the event so far. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID/EXPRESS

Visitors are warming up to the customs and traditions of Kashmir valley at the ongoing Lok Mela (festival). They are enjoying the ethnic crafts, the music and dance and the exotic cuisine, said a press release issued on Friday.

A melodious chorus of folk singers greets visitors upon entering the Kashmir pavilion. A team of over 30 performers from the Azad Jammu and Kashmir is taking part in the festival. These include 16 craftspeople in the fields of papier mache, wood carving, calligraphy, jewellery, carpets, namda, gabba, Kashmiri shawl and embroidery.

Zulfiqar Ghazi, one of the artians present at the pavilion, specialises in the famous Kashmiri art of papier mache. He is also skilled in stain glass, fabric designing and traditional furniture painting. I can paints nature, floral motifs, birds, animals and Mughal monarchs, he said.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Irfan is a master craftsman of woodcarving. He learnt this at the tender age of seven. Irfan uses walnut wood, cedar, dalbergia sissu (shisham) to carve furniture, doors, boxes and decorative items. He carves nature, leaf patterns, animals, floral designs.

Baskets galore

Meanwhile, a group of craftswomen are exhibiting baskets from Jhang. Prominent among these are Kaneez Fatima and Fateh Bibi from Shah Jewna area. They descend from a poor family that has been practicing the craft since long. “Previously people bought basketry items for keeping bread and household accessories but now it has become more of a decorative item,” said Bibi.

With tears welling up her eyes, Fatima said she took up the medium as a means to help support her family. Her nine-year-old son Idrees is suffering from a heart condition. “Being poor does not help in getting him treatment. My husband is a low-paid worker in a steel mill and he cannot afford to pay for the treatment and medicines,” she said.

Basket techniques and their design elements are traditional. Diverse shapes and sizes have evolved to serve practical functions as well as being adapted to modern uses. A typical example is the snake charmer’s basket which carries snakes and sets the stage for their performance. The bold and triangular designs are created by using different coloured fibres chosen from the core (coiled material) for wrapping while their colour is required for the pattern.

Chapati and nan, are kept in covered baskets of many traditional shapes. They are called dabki in Sindh and chhabi in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Plain coiled baskets of all sizes hold food and huge ones. Fans are made from plaited fibres attached to a holding stick and the Swati fans have decorative ruffles of local cloth. It is a Sindhi custom to present a bride with a lavishly ornamented and embroidered fan. Braided and twined grass shoes or chappals (sandals) are made from available grasses and straw in traditional styles. The fibrous plants can be attractively designed for modern use as floor mats as made in Kurram Agency and Waziristan.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2013.


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