Srinagar, Jan 2: The traditional art of walnut wood carving is facing a decline as demand diminishes, posing challenges to the centuries-old craft and its skilled artisans.
Artisans associated with this craft expressed their concerns, saying the tradition of walnut wood carving is experiencing a decline.
Ghulam Qadir Matoo, 80, a seasoned walnut wood carving artist in Arampora Nawakadal Srinagar, said his grandfather, Ghulam Mohammad Matoo, initiated their workshop in 1920.
He recounted that there used to be hundreds of artisans engaged in walnut wood carving, but after 1980, the industry witnessed a decline due to a shift in people’s preferences and a decrease in demand.
“Tourists visit the area, but they prefer purchasing from showrooms, which yield good returns, while the artist makes meagre earnings which are insufficient to make ends meet,” he said.
Matoo expressed concern, saying the new generation shows the least interest in this craft. With the passing of the main masters, there might be no one left to carry on this traditional art, he lamented.
Another artist, Muneer Ahmad Matoo, said that despite the government’s claims of taking steps for the revival of traditional craft, there has been little difference on the ground, even with a surge in tourist visits over the last two years. He said the decline is mainly due to the changing consumer preferences, technological advancements and a shifting cultural landscape.
Once a cherished craft deeply rooted in Kashmiri culture, walnut wood carving now grapples with declining interest from both new generations and established markets, Muneer said, adding that the allure of mass-produced goods and instant gratification through online platforms has led to a diminished appreciation for the patience and skill required in hand-carved wooden creations.
As older generations of master carvers pass away without sufficient successors, the valuable knowledge and techniques passed down through generations are at risk of being lost, the artisans said.
They said economic considerations also play a role, with mass-manufactured goods proving more cost-effective than the labour-intensive process of hand-carving.
This economic reality has contributed to a decline in demand for handmade wooden artefacts, further impacting the livelihoods of artisans, they said.