“THERE WAS STONE-PELTING AND I KNEW IT WAS DANGEROUS, BUT WORK HAD TO GO ON”
The rebellious Arifa Jan tirelessly fights disdain from society and resistance from family to pursue her passion in one of Srinagar’s most violent areas, Nawa Kadal. Not only is she reviving a failing craft, namda weaving, but also providing much-needed employment.
Isecretly got myself a form for the craft management and entrepreneurship course at the Craft Development Institute. This is because no one here allows you to get into the field of crafts. Yes, the crafts of Kashmir are famous, but if you are educated in the field, you are looked upon as a thief. When I completed my course, I was given the project to revive Namda. There is a hierarchy associated with crafts in Kashmir. Namda falls in the lowest category. But I decided to do the project as a challenge. It’s a dying craft. During my research, the Namda and Wagoo artisans would tell me, 31 ‘Hamari betiyon se koi shaadi nahin karta; kehte hain hum Wagoo wale hain (Nobody marries our daughters. They say we are Wagoo artisans).’ The wages have not changed in the past 50 years. I spent a year roaming the secretariat in Srinagar to get space to set up my unit, without success. I listened to everyone. I would cry. Stop. Then get back to work. Inshallah, I know the path I’ve chosen comes with a lot of obstacles. We started with five artisans. Today, we have 25.
The conflict in Kashmir has never been as bad as it was last year. Day and night, I would accompany my father. There was stone-pelting and I knew it was dangerous, but work had to go on. I went into depression last year, but sailed through eventually. My family thought no one would marry me because of this. I would listen to them. It would upset me for an hour or two, and then I would get back to work. In Kashmir, no one supports artisans. I will.”
“I am fighting for the dignity and honour of artisans. People keep trying to stop me.”
ARIFA JAN (R) WITH WORKERS AT HER UNIT IN NAWA KADAL, SRINAGAR