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Khanyari tiles, once a cultural necessity, now fading into oblivion
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Khanyari tiles, once a cultural necessity, now fading into oblivion


Post by Insha Latief Khan on Wednesday, November 23, 2022

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Once considered a quintessential cultural element, Khanyari Tiles were used in every traditional house of Kashmir to decorate the floors. In the past, the glazed tiles were made by a large community of artisans from Khanyar, Srinagar.

Apart from the tiles, the artisans used to make a livelihood by making the glazed pottery products.

As modern advancements took up, Khanyari tiles witnessed decline in its buyers which made the craft go from a community to a craftsman.

Ghulam Mohammad Kumar, the last craftsman is still holding on to the last remnants of the craft.

Kumar has been associated with the craft for the past 50 years. With his years’ experience, he makes multiple designs in the shape of square, star and khatamband.

The ancient craft with some efforts has again gained a spotlight.  

With an effort to revive the age-old craft- glazed pottery, an architect and city planner by profession, Zoya Khan showcased her photo exhibition titled “The Last Craftsman’ in the Art Emporium.

Through her pictures, she showcased the art of making Khanyari tiles by Ghulam Mohammad Kumar's traditional way. 

Zoya, who has been deeply interested in the vernacular building traditions of Kashmir, had approached Kumar some two years back for one of her projects. As much as she was amazed to see the beautiful art, she was also pained to learn that these tiles are not in circular anymore.

“Khanyari tiles used to be a common element in the Kashmiri traditional houses. I found that there is no demand because of the newer material available in the market. This craft slowly started dying. At its peak, people in that Mohalla would make 3000 tiles a day and now years pass, they don’t get any order of these tiles,” she said.

Talking about her journey she said, “It’s been fascinating. Not only have I been exposed to how the tiles are being made with the traditional knowledge but I have got insights of the craftsmen’s life. Crafts cannot exist without patronage and people have to take that initiative to value these things. There has to be some sort of emotional connection with these things. It’s just an attempt to reestablish that connection.”

The photo exhibition was held with the support of the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom.

Director of Handicrafts and Handloom, Kashmir, Mahmood Ahmad Shah said that the exhibition was held to revive the craft.

“Ghulam Mohammad Kumar was the last craftsman of the Khanyari tiles. In 2020, under the Karkhandar scheme, we tried to revive the endangered crafts where a new direction was given to this art and a young lad Omer got in touch with Kumar to learn about the intricacies of this art,” he said. 

Umar Kumar who has learnt the art from Ghulam Mohammad has introduced a contemporary touch to it by making a wall clock, decorative items and flower pots with the glazing mud. He said, “I have seen an exhibition of glazed pottery for the first time. If such exhibitions happen, we can get more people and products will be in good demand. I am fond of the art and I will carry it forward.”

Ilyas Rizvi, an oral historian and craft researcher said the exhibition is an effort to give a lease of life to the almost extinct craft of Khanyari Pottery Tiles. “Through such efforts made to enhance the number of workshops and the Craftsmen, there is a hope. But it is too early to comment on its complete revival. The exhibition is about the life of the craftsman through the lens of the photographer. Hope the society shows the same respect to a craftsman which is given to other professionals,” he said.

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