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Photo Exhibition on ‘Last tile maker’ held in Srinagar

By: Syed Shadab Ali Gillani

Srinagar: on 15th of November, to preserve the traditional craft of ‘Khanyari Tiles’ which is on the verge of extinction, a master craftsman and a Kashmiri architect have joined hands for a photo exhibition being showcased in the Kashmir Arts Emporium, Srinagar. These tiles, which were once considered an essential part of exquisite Kashmiri architecture depicting Kashmir’s rich craftsmanship, are not being adopted by a new generation of craftsmen.Haji Ghulam Mohammad Kumar, who hails from the Khanyar area of Srinagar, is the sole Kashmiri craftsman involved in these ‘Roghni’ tile making. To promote this craft and honour the legacy of the artist, a local architect and teacher Zoya Khan organised a photo exhibition in collaboration with the Department of Handicrafts and Handlooms in Srinagar’s Government Arts Emporium.

“The main objective behind this photo exhibition is to create awareness among people about the valley’s rich tradition and culture. Right now, there is almost no demand for this craft, and if timely action is not taken, it will become extinct very soon,” said Zoya Khan.Haji Sahab finds that earlier these tiles were considered an important component in Kashmiri homes when he started working. “I was around 15 years when I started making these tiles and it has been around 50 years now. This craft of tile making was practiced throughout the valley but now these tiles are only made by me,” he says.Zoya who is working on preserving different aspects of Kashmiri architecture including these tiles is aware of the significance of this craft and has been documenting and photographing this art for the past two years.

“Three years back, I was working on a project that required these tiles, but I ended up learning this craft from Haji Sahab later. I’ve been working with him as he is the only person in the valley who makes these tiles.”She urges the need to help artists like him and says, “He is knowledgeable, and the way he talks about the craft is fascinating.”

The primary objective of the exhibition is to keep alive this disappearing type of art as there was a good response from different people during their visit to the exhibition.Although, Haji Sahab notes a decline in several people associated with the art because of less demand which results in less profit but finds hope in new interventions and the young generation. “I am trying to educate youngsters about this craft as it is part of our heritage and culture. The government has also offered their support and they are providing me a space where I can instruct other people and impart my knowledge which will be of great help,” said Haji.As per officials, the Jammu and Kashmiri government is also putting a lot of effort into reviving Valley’s dying art and craft. One among them is the Khanyari Tile which is on the verge of extinction.

“Following JKUT’s Handicraft and Handloom Policy of 2020, a strong emphasis is being placed on the resuscitation of such crafts, particularly the crafts that are steadily vanishing. This event is thereby a success story for the revival of such arts and such efforts must be repeated in other trades.” Said Mehmood Shah Director of Handicrafts and Handloom, Kashmir.