Papier-mache exports in Kashmir on decline

      Papier-mache exports in Kashmir has witnessed a steep dive, as it has been hit by recession and also due to lack of interest on the part of people to pursue this art nowadays. Papier mache has been Kashmir 's flourishing art in the past. The art originate in Persia and was brought to Kashmir in the 15th century by a Kashmiri prince who spent some years in prison at Samarkand in Central Asia , and was favoured by the Mughal rulers. Kashmir 's papier-mache products have a strong Persian touch. Once a booming business, the papier-mache exports have come down from three billion rupees to mere 500 million rupees. Besides recession, another major reason for this downfall is that there are no takers to pursue this art as an occupation any longer. "If we exported 15 billion rupees worth of goods before recession, then out of that, papier mache accounted for three billion rupees. Today, it has come down by 20 percent and we are exporting only 500 to 600 million worth of papier mache products, as against 3 billion," said Shaqeel Qalandar, President, Federation Chambers of Industries, Kashmir . Papier-mache today faces a threat to its existence, as the people no longer show any interest in pursuing it as an occupation. The rising prices of raw material and less returns are two of the major factors that keep the people away from pursuing a career in papier mache. "In coming 10 to 20 years, this work will become extinct. The art was done in Kashmir, in the same manner as it was done in Iran . If you look at some products made earlier, you can see how well they were made. Now people don't make it in the similar manner, because they don't get enough money for it. Many artisans have left this work now, to pursue other occupations," said Mohammed Soleha, an artisan. The papier-mache artisans in Kashmir transform a variety of utility articles into art pieces of rare beauty. The traditional method of making these articles in Kashmir begins with soaking waste paper in water for several days till it disintegrates. Then after draining the excess water from the paper, cloth, rice, straw and copper sulphate are mixed to form a pulp, which is placed in moulds and left to dry for 2-3 days. After cutting out the dried shape from the mould, it is then stuck again with glue and gypsum and is rubbed smooth with stone and covered with layers of tissue paper. Then a base colour is painted and designs made on it. It is again sand papered and finally, painted with different paints.

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