J&K artists weave life back into the antique shawl

Workshop to revive Valley’s vanishing breed of master darners
Once sought after by Mughal emperors for their finesse, Kashmir’s master darners, known as rafugars, have become an endangered species. The Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) government is now making efforts to revive this dwindling breed of craftsmen whose rare ability to repair expensive antique shawls is in great demand across the country and abroad. J&K’s Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) have decided to identify and expose these traditional Valley darners to the market. Toward this end, at least 25 master darners and embroidery artists have been invited to exhibit their skills at a six-day workshop, organised from September 17-22, at Srinagar’s SPS Museum. Two masters from Uttar Pradesh’s Najibabad are among those sharing their knowledge.
Rafugari survives
J&K’s Handicraft Department says, of the 56 traditional skills (such as wood-carving), only 26 are practiced today. One indicator of the decline: a post for ‘Darner Instructor’ in the department has been lying vacant for many years. “Among the surviving skills is rafugari, which is also dying. Darners from Kashmir once impressed the Mughal emperors, who hired them to keep their shatoosh and pashmina shawls intact,” said Saleem Beg of INTACH’s J&K chapter. The workshop, Mr. Beg said, was aimed at transmitting the art to the next generation. The museum has displayed 63 rare shawls, many dating back to 1893, including one with a map of Srinagar on it. Master darner Muhammad Rafiq Kozghar, in his mid-50s, has been repairing antique shawls and sarees for 40 years now. “I picked up the skill from three teachers in Srinagar. All of them have passed away. I am the only student alive, taking it forward. Darning requires fine hands and eyesight. A darner dies once his eyesight fails him,” said Mr Kozghar, who works in Delhi.
Source :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/jk-artists-weave-life-back-into-the-antique-shawl/article24990350.ece

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