Kashmir: Art In The Shadow Of Militancy14 April 2010
Srinagar: Their art thrived in the shadow of militancy but was never visible to the world. Now, at last, over 50 young artists from the Kashmir Valley will get to display their works thanks to a clutch of students based outside the troubled state. The students - also from Kashmir and all in their 20s - have in a first of its kind endeavour provided the artists a platform by organising the exhibition, 'Quest For The Finest Artists Of Kashmir', to be held in June. It is the brainchild of Arslan Qadri, a 21-year-old Kashmiri who is pursuing his engineering studies in Mumbai and has been dabbling in glass painting for as long as he can remember. The idea first struck Arslan while on vacation in Kashmir towards the end of 2009. 'On one of my trips back home, I discussed with some like-minded friends the possibility of having a platform for budding artists from the valley.' 'Encouraged by the good response there, I came up with a website, www.kashmirartquest.webs.com, to invite amateur Kashmiri artists to showcase their work,' Arslan told IANS on phone from Mumbai. All the registered members of the website - 54 so far - will display their works. The categories on display will include canvas painting, photography, pencil painting, applied art, glass painting, fabric art and calligraphy. Majid, a telecommunications engineer in his mid-20s, is all praise for the organisers and thinks of the event as a 'once in a lifetime opportunity'. His portfolio consists of charcoal paintings, abstract art, portraits and landscapes. 'Finally, we can show to people that there is a lot of talent in Kashmir and the only thing we lack is a window of opportunity,' Majid said. Since its inception in January 2010, the website has gained popularity among budding artists and the number of registered users is on a northward journey. Arslan also opened a fan page on the social networking site Facebook. 'The response was again very good. In about three months, almost 300 people signed up as fans,' he said. From school and college students in the valley to working professionals in overseas countries, Kashmiris showed enthusiasm for the concept. Arslan and his friends then came up with the idea of holding the exhibition of the artworks of registered members of the website. 'We managed to find some sponsors for the exhibition that will be held June 5-6 at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre in Srinagar,' Arslan said. 'We also have support from the Institute of Fine Arts, Srinagar, and the Jammu and Kashmir Department of Handicrafts Development,' he added. Besides showcasing the talent of participants, the organisers also intend to make an attempt at finding a market for the artwork. 'We are trying to rope in some commercial establishments from the world of art so that they see the work and become interested in buying it,' said Mujtaba Rizvi, Arslan's man Friday. Uzma Showkat, Sana Tufail and Ayaz Farooq - all Kashmiri students based outside Kashmir - are their comrades-in-arms. Giving back to society is also on the minds of organisers. 'Forty percent of the proceedings will be donated to charity,' Mujtaba said. The registered members wait with eagerness for the event. 'I am looking forward to this event to show my talent in front of a large audience,' said Hina, a teenaged student, who has made a collection of more than 40 pencil sketches on various themes.