Valley’s Valued Woodcarving Art Dying Silent Death

Valley’s Valued Woodcarving Art Dying Silent Death

13 April 2012
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: The traditional wood carving art used to provide livelihood to thousands of people in the valley, but this unique tradition is dying a silent death due to the unregulated import of wooden items. These imported wooden goods are imprinted by machines and are cheaper as compared to the finely crafted local products. Earlier, Kashmiri carpenters and artisans were known for imprinting the wood into different designs and the people used these items to decorate their houses or even old buildings used to have wooden doors that were specially carved by Kashmiri craftsmen in different designs. Mehraj-ud-Din who is associated with wood carving trade said that this art has reached the stage of ‘extinction’. “Earlier there was huge demand for the wood carved items, not only within the state, but we used to receive orders from outside as well. But now the demand has reached its lowest ebb as people prefer readymade items available in the market,” Mehraj said. He recalls the days when people used to send their children to him as apprentice so that he can train them in this art of wood carving. “There was time when I had 10 to 20 apprentices who used to work with me throughout the year but now I hardly get any trainees. All my trainees have left this trade and are doing different jobs, because they find it non profitable,” Mehraj said adding that he also wants to quit this trade but only thing that keeps him attached to this job is his family as he is the only bread-earner in the house. Mehraj further adds that the lack of interest shown by the children of the carpenters and artisans in wood carving has further affected this trade and led to its downfall. Muhammad Iqbal who is a dealer of wood carved items says: “Demand for locally produced wood carved items has decreased considerably due to the import of wooden items made of foreign timber and further these items are cheaper in rate as compared to local items.” Iqbal further added although the foreign items are not that well finished and durable but still locals prefer the imported wood engraved items for the construction purposes as it is readily available in market. “For local wood carving items customer has to wait till the carpenter completes designing on wooden sheets.” Meanwhile, customers have their own take on the use of imported wooden items. They say the easy availability of the product is its best advantage. “People cannot stop their work until the artisan finishes his wood carving work.” Experts believe that the introduction of imported timber and its goods like paneling, doors and windows have left many artisans and craftsman jobless. Government really needs to do serious rethinking about the import of foreign timber and wooden items as it is proving fatal for the local industry.