Papier-mâché artist Mohammad Maqbool Jan is busy at his workplace, not with his routine work but over the past year he is diligently painting a map on a piece of cloth to recreate the past.
The four-time award-winning artist is painting a map of Srinagar city to attempt to preserve Srinagar of old times for later generations.
Jan, who has been working as a papier-mâché artist for the past 40 years, is brushing map of Srinagar city as it was during the time of the Maharajas of Dogra dynasty.
Papier-mâché involves the use of brightly coloured paper pieces or pulp bound by an adhesive to make various decorative items.
As per Jan, the new generation is not aware of the beauty of the city, its historic and traditional architecture, and landmarks.
“Srinagar has turned into an ugly concrete jungle, and I want to preserve the Srinagar of old times for the future generations,” he said.
Jan is painting the city’s history on cloth, painting all the landmarks like Dal Lake with its shikaras, Mughal gardens, the Jhelum River, various bridges of the city, mosques, bazaars, and residential areas.
“I am trying to recreate the city as per the details my father has provided to me,” said Jan.
He said his motive in creating the striking piece is not fame but to bring focus on the fading art and artisans who are living in poverty or are shifting to other professions to make a livelihood.
Jan said the art of papier-mâché has been given to the people of Kashmir by Sufi Muslim saint Mir Sayeed Ali Hamdani.
“Ever since the saint Mir Sayeed Ali Hamdani came to Kashmir from Persia, we artists have taken to creative methods to save the art but our present generation seems not to be interested in this art anymore,” said Jan.
He said he wanted to showcase the city and awaken the conscience of the people towards the city.
“I hope the painting will motivate people and the government to save the city as well as artists,” he said.
Jan said artists are like storytellers. “Artists remind people of their surroundings and provoke them to think about what needs to be preserved and how it can be done,” said Jan.
Jan was recently awarded by the government for his contribution to papier-mâché.
He feels the art and craft for which the old city is known for is slowly dying out but artists and craftsmen must step up to meet the challenge by being more creative and innovative.
“Anything new in the market is highly appreciated, so I suggest everyone to make innovative changes in this craft so we can sustain in the competitive market,” Jan added.