Papier Mache has contributed a lot to the economy of Kashmir, but unfortunately this craft is becoming a part-time activity
Papier Mache is a French word meaning “chewed paper”. The art of Papier Mache involves moulding raw paper pulp into aesthetically pleasing objects. The valley of Kashmir is known for Papier Mache craft. Unlike today, during earlier times one could witness such articles being sold at every nook and corner of the city. Unfortunately, the art is now vanishing from Kashmir.
This art form is primarily based on paper pulp, and produces richly decorated, colourful artefacts, generally in the form of vases, bowls or cups, bases of lamps, and many other small objects. These are generally made in homes or workshops, in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir.
In Kashmir, Papier Mache originated in the form of making pen cases from paper pulp (base). The qalamdans (pen cases) were in turn covered with floral or geometric patterns and finished with a coat of rogan (Varnish). For this reason the craft was initially referred to as Kariqalamdan (the art of making pen cases). The art involves two processes: Sakhtasaazi (making of base product) and Naqashi (painting) which gives a decorative touch with intricate designs.
Papier Mache has contributed a lot to the economy of Kashmir, but unfortunately this craft is becoming a part-time activity. With new technologies and manufacturing techniques, the art of Papier Mache is slowly dying. The economic viability of the art has taken a hit due to machine carving and artisans preferring other jobs.
The end products generally have a higher cost because more time and effort is involved. Lower quality and cheaper machine products have given a tough challenge to the sector, with artisans struggling to keep going. People often prefer to buy machine-made products due to their lower prices. These are the challenges that the Kashmiri art faces in its struggle for survival.
The writer is a student at Faculty of Forestry, SKUAST-K. [email protected]