Art for all: Keeping ‘paper mache’ alive in India through braille

Art for all: Keeping 'paper mache' alive in India through braille thumbnail

One of the oldest crafts of Kashmir called ‘paper mache’ has been dying a slow death. An artist in the valley has, however, emerged as a hope for the survival of this craft.

Iqbal Ahmad Wani from Srinagar is working hard to revive and introduce new designs in the paper mache. In an effort to take this art to those who can’t see he has uniquely started a series especially for visually impaired people. He has introduced braille into this age-old craft of Kashmir.

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”Paper mache is an art of colours but we couldn’t use these in the case of braille. So we only used three colours. As I haven’t studied braille so I sought help from a designer in developing this. We have written a message on all the pieces that ‘Life is a struggle and we all need to keep going’,” said Iqbal Ahmad Wani.

The response towards the new designs and especially braille pieces has been good. People have appreciated the effort of the artisan and designer who came up with the idea of developing something so unique. 

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”We did the first exhibition and the response of people was really good. People appreciated our efforts and said that they have seen something new in a long time. Of course, traditional stuff needs to be made but new designs have to be developed so as to keep the people interested. But we can never let go of our old designs as they are the reason for us being where we are,” Wani said.

In the whole process, an NGO is helping Iqbal make this project a reality. The NGO works with artisans to help them with new innovations so as to increase the market.

”Connect to Kashmir is an organisation working in the valley since 2011. We chose 22 craftsmen from the valley to help them reinvent the art. We have a team of seven designers who, along with the artisans, came up with new ideas and designs.  Iqbal and our designer had a brainstorming session wherein they came up with an idea of developing pieces for blind,” said Javid Ahmad, consultant.

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