PHOTOS: This 21-Year-Old Has Beautifully Captured Artisans Fighting To Keep Kashmir's Dying Arts Alive

28/01/2016 1:18 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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qamoos bukhari

As Kashmiri artisans put up a brave battle against machine-made creations to preserve Kashmir’s dying arts, a young photographer has immortalised their flailing efforts by capturing their stories, and their lives devoted to art. Qamoos Bukhari, a self-taught Kashmiri photographer recently released his book titled ‘Borderless: The Artisans of Kashmir’ at Bikaner House, New Delhi. The book is a is a beautiful collage of Bukhari's conversations with the artisans and his portraits of them.

qamoos bukhari

The photographer/ author Qamoos Bukhari

Bukhari treats his readers to glimpses of the lives of these artisans. The men and women open their hearts to Bukhari about their struggles and the long hours spent inside workshops.

With each individual, Bukhari (a student at Delhi University) uncovered some beautiful anecdotes of extraordinary lives, their battles and their dreams. Here are some stunning images from his book.

  • An Artisan
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “I know this is bad for my health...It may even shorten my life- span but I do hope to witness the revival of our Kashmiri art in the years ahead...”
  • Artisans
    Qamoos Bukhari
    We haven’t slept; nobody has gone home since yesterday; we don’t have anything to do now. We had been working on an order for a year and yesterday it was cancelled rather suddenly. The buyer refused to take it.” I promptly asked why and how such a thing could happen. He answered, “I don’t understand...he said he will sell machine- made shawls from Amritsar now, as he can get them in two days and earn lakhs with them.”
  • Carpet Weaving
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “Weaving a carpet is a very cumbersome task...it takes ages. I used to help my husband in preparing the warp before he got a spinal problem. He used to sit and weave for at least sixteen hours a day. Now he can’t weave...he is disabled. I take care of everything now: my husband, children, household and my work. I manage to earn two hundred rupees a day although an ordinary labourer earns at least four hundred rupees a day. I am fifty now and I can’t sit for more than twelve hours a day on the loom. I work very hard for my family’s survival,” says Sharifa.
  • Embroidery
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “I can’t understand why girls these days don’t show any interest in this. Why don’t they try to learn this craft? Then when they get married they fight with their husbands over money. My husband and I work together and we earn happily for our family and ourselves. Although both of us work very hard to support our family, I don’t know why I am being paid less than what my husband is paid for the same shawl,” asks Sajida.
  • Kani Shawl Weaving
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “Why are you taking my picture? I will show you some beautiful colourful shawls; click them!” As Ghulam Rasool was about to take the support of his walking aid, I interrupted, “No...I want to take your photograph; you make those masterpieces.” Asking me to sit across him on a weaving bench he said, “My picture is on the shawl I weave for months. The shawl I weave is my companion; every day I spend almost fourteen hours on it. It absorbs my day’s emotions into its colors. I am 90 years old and have been working for eighty- one years now. For me my life is my work, my prayers to God and weaving a shawl ‘sincerely’ is a medium to offer those prayers.”
  • Musical Instrument
    Qamoose Bukhari
    “Musical instruments are very powerful... When they are played, they mesmerise everyone. I am one among many who have become prey to them. This profession is riveted with my soul now. One has to carve out the rabab from a solid block of wood. One cannot use a handsaw to cut it. It has to be done with love. When it gets moulded and when one begins to play, it can just leave one’s heart pierced.”
  • Papier Mache
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “Our house was washed away by the recent floods. We have managed to make this temporary shelter by selling five gold bangles, which we had saved for our daughter’s marriage. We have to work very hard now. My daughters have already started helping us..."
  • Wicker work
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “What can one do and how can one contribute if one becomes most knowledgeable about this craft without any practice? One cannot do anything unless people come and show interest in learning this craft. Nobody wants to be an artisan anymore, not even my grandchildren...”
  • Wood carving
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “There was a woodcarving workshop opposite our home. I remember sitting on the windowsill, observing craftsmen work with their tools. I come from a very poor family. I never went to school. When I was eight years old, my father asked me what I wanted to do and how I could work to support our family. Since then I have been working and Alhamdulillah (thanks to the Almighty), I am satisfied as I got what I wanted. My daughter has her exams tomorrow so I have to leave. I have to buy some stationary for her...”
  • Zardouzi
    Qamoos Bukhari
    “I know the value of this craft. I lost my son when he was twenty-seven. He was innocent. He went out to the market to buy some yarn for his unfinished shawl. There was an encounter between the army and the militants and my son was shot dead in the crossfire. Now if I get any pleasure from anything in this world, it is only from my work. I spend most of my day in this workshop. My work is my life...I won’t let this craft die, not at least by my doings. Sometimes I don’t have money to buy morning bread for my family, but my conscience doesn’t allow me to deceive. I don’t use fake material. I know what it means to lose one’s identity,” reminisces Mohammad Subhan.

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