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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Fading Kani Shawl Weavers from Kashmir

The exquisite Kani Shawls made in Kashmir were once favourite of Mughal, Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rulers in Kashmir. This art might become a thing of the past soon if not given proper attention.

Like many other artisan communities the traditional Kani Shawl weavers are unable to pass on this skill to their younger generation. The younger generation don’t have so much patience to learn this art, especially those who are educationally qualified.

The 71 year old Farooq Ahmad Mir is one among few who not only taught Kani Shawl weaving art to almost 350 people in Srinagar’s old city but his own children are professional Kani-Shawl weavers. All his three sons are well educated and one of them is a post graduate in Economics. Still Farooq Ahmad Mir is an unsung weaver and not much has been discussed or written about his great work.

The 16th century Persian book Ain-i-Akbari records that Emperor Akbar was an avid collector of Kani Shawls made in Kashmir. These shawls are made from pashmina wool. Instead of shuttle use in pashmina shawl, Kani Shawl is made using Cane Needles (Kani), which is similar to carpet weaving. The pattern is woven into a shawl and takes 4 to 18 months to make one product.

The 20th century was an era of science & technology but in the 21st century it was felt that industrialization was like a curse on mankind due to excessive fossil fuel emissions etc. The handmade goods thus got a great significance in the international market.

Kani shawl is an ancient art and this art form had almost vanished around late 1940s. Only the weavers of Kanihama in Budgam had kept this artform alive; they had learnt this from veteran artists in Srinagar’s old city and from Kanihama. Mir took an initiative and started Kani Shawl weaving in the 1990s by introducing new designs, and trained more people including his sons.

Farooq Ahmad Mir has got multiple awards in pashmina Kani weaving. He got National Award 2007, Thakur Ved Ram National Award 2011-2012. He was also given Kamala Award (Shanta Prasad Award) 2018 and prestigious State Award for excellence in Arts & Crafts 2019.

Farooq Ahmad Mir has the distinction to be the National Awardee in Kani Shawl art from Govt. of India (under Ministry of Textiles). Mir has a distinction of being awarded prestigious Sant Kabir Award -2014. This award was presented to him by PM Modi in Chennai on August 7th 2015.

The Kani Shawl products made by Ahmad Mir and his sons are not only sold in the country but it has an international market as well. Recently the Amabani family purchased more than 100 Kani Shawls from Mir’s through their Swadesh company for Anant Ambani’s wedding. TATA subsidiary Taneira and Aditya Birla group are also some of their prestigious clients.

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