Although he is a specially disabled person in Jammu and Kashmir, artisan Mohammad Yousuf has not been shortlisted for any state or national awards to encourage his unparalleled works of woodcarving.
Mohammad Yousuf Muran busy with his woodworking. Image courtesy of Mudasir Rawloo
The deaf-mute artist from Kashmir brings dead wood to life.
Deprived of the power of speech and hearing from birth, Mohammad Yousuf Muran, 55, remains busy from dawn to dusk producing masterpieces in carved wood.
Muran hails from Eidgah Narwara in downtown Srinagar. Deaf-mute from birth, this unfit Kashmiri learned the art of woodcarving from his older brother, also deaf-mute but a master of woodcarving. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago.
The youngest has been working there since the age of four, perpetuating the traditional work of his ancestors with his excellent talent and know-how.
For Muran, dead wood meets excellence through his superlative art. The replica of the famous Jamia Masjid in Srinagar which he took three months to complete is a reflection of his genius. This work of art has won him applause and appreciation from all over the world.
Magnificent creations like George of England on a horse, a statue of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Mahatma Gandhi, Hazratbal shrine, Kashmir samovar, kangri fire pot, shepherd, wildlife and monument carvings at the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road link showing a Pakistani and a Kashmiri kissing are all manifestations of his genius.
“This craft of woodcarving is an age-old business that has been going on for about 200 years. We have established a factory in downtown Srinagar where we prepare all these items. We also have our own store, on the Lethpora highway named Paradise Woodhouse.As to my analysis,I believe that this woodcarving craftsmanship has elevated the handicraft sector in Kashmir.Our handicrafts were sold to West Asia through the Silk Road by our ancestors. The places included Iran and Pakistan. And before partition, we had a factory in Karachi. So that was also a link between Kashmir and the Middle East. Our business was flourishing but everything fell apart. “Wood carving is a dying craft. Unlike pashmina craftsmanship, carpet making and wood carving are dying arts,” said his nephew Mudasir Muran, q He serves as her interpreter and sign language teacher.
“My father used to make all these things and he was a legendary artist, but unfortunately he passed away a few years ago and now my uncle, Mohammed Yusuf, is engaged in this art. However, other people also make all of them. these objects, but not with such a level of perfection that my uncle possesses. If you put a picture or a monument in front of Muran, he will create the same thing on dead wood. it will be hard to believe or tell the difference between the image or the woodwork,” he mentioned.
“I think the role of government is very vital here. We don’t see them helping people with potential and expertise. Government should do something to improve this sector. We also know that this sector of the craftsmanship has been monopolized by a few.big traders we know, artists need to be rewarded for their craft.
I can dispute that there is no better craftsman than my uncle in the whole valley. Just because he is deaf and dumb, he is ignored. If not, he should be rewarded with the highest award. On top of all that, I’m trying very hard to keep this art form from dying. I started one of the best shops in Kashmir without any help from the government which was quite difficult. I even met senior officials and presented my ideas to them. But nothing makes a difference,” exclaimed Mudasir.
Apart from all this, the prevailing political and security situation did little to help the company prosper. ]
“I belong to one of the oldest parts of Kashmir i.e. downtown Srinagar, I call it the ‘Crown of Kashmir’ as they say there is no that’s “Stone Pelters” but that’s not true. It produced the best artists related to any craft be it’s papier mache, wood carving or whatever. But the fact is that we are exploited and taken for granted,” he said.
“When people have less knowledge about anything, they become critical. People start to think that our items are too expensive. Even if we look at a normal worker these days, they cost too much per working day, so how can an artist’s work be called too expensive. Our craftsmanship benefits so many people by creating jobs. I also met with the high authorities. I had even floated the idea of renovating the airport by setting up shops related to carpentry, carpets, crew, pashmina shawls, papier mache etc. This will let everyone know about the artistic work done in Kashmir because tourists visit Kashmir through the airport and automatically this will elevate the handicraft sector,” Mudasir said.
There is no shortage of ideas, but the necessary government support may be lacking. The sector has great potential for job creation, but except for a select few, almost no one has received help and guidance from the government.
“Everywhere you can see the slogans of ‘Naya Kashmir’ but it doesn’t work when it’s confined to social media. It should be done practically too. As an entrepreneur, I started my own thing without the no one’s help, so being the government, they should do wonders. Right?” Mudasir asked.
Although he is a specially disabled person in Jammu and Kashmir, Mudasir’s uncle, Mohammad Yousuf, was not shortlisted for any state or national awards to encourage his unparalleled works of woodcarving.
“My uncle’s beautiful wooden carved products can be sold for millions in the international market, but the regret is that the government did not give him any recognition. We also approached the Handicrafts Department several times for him confer state awards and recommend the central awards to him, but nothing has been done so far,” Mudasir said.