Dejected award winning artist turns auto driver

Award winning Paper-mache artist in Srinagar. —Excelsior/Shakeel
Award winning Paper-mache artist in Srinagar. —Excelsior/Shakeel

Waseem Ahmad
SRINAGAR, Sept 21: As the Government ignores artists, an award winning Paper-mache artist of Kashmir has been forced to become auto-rikshaw driver to support his family
Syed Ajaz Ahmad Shah, a resident of Hawal in downtown area of Srinagar, is an award winning Paper-mache artist. However, he had to bid adieu to the art and buy an auto rickshaw to support his family.
Blaming the Government for the fall of the sector, Ajaz explains why artists are continuously alienating from the art that once had a sound representation in the international market.

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“Government’s failure in providing jobs to artists is the main reason for the giving up of artists. The technical hands should not be restricted because of the academic qualification which in the long run leaves artists with no other options but to look for some menial jobs to earn daily bread and butter, he said.
Being an artisan who started Paper-mache from a very young age, Ajaz has received six awards for his exemplary work that include two State awards, one national award, an award in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an award in Chandigarh, an award in International school Pathways Gurgaon and an international award in South Africa.
“The negligence and the ignorance of the Government towards the sector is the main reason that has forced many art knowing people like me to give up their passion”, says Ajaz. “The promises of providing jobs to national award winners were never met as the eligibility was fixed the matriculation pass”.
Ajaz explains how an artist despite having no academic qualification can be utilized to train the coming generation. “An artist has only art in his hands and his/her degree is only art that he/she possess. We don’t have degrees but we have expertise in this art. We don’t have to teach students ABCD in the school of design but they should be taught practically how the designs are made, he said
Ajaz approached various higher ups with the issue many times but was sent back disappointed every time. “I was literally thrown out of the office by the officials many times”, says Ajaz, who has been driving an auto riksha for past six months.
He explains how being an auto driver is a better choice than being an award winning Paper-mache artist. “I used to earn Rs 100-150 per day as an artist and now I am earning Rs 300 to 500 a day. My current job is far better than the old one”, he adds.
Explaining how local artisans can be utilized to keep the centuries old art alive Ajaz says: “Government is doing workshops at various places in the city as well as in villages to teach people this art. I think Government should use services of these artists to teach people as it is their right”.
He lamented that this art of Paper-mache came to Kashmir from Iran more than 600 years back but the art is dying now. “If this art is to be saved, Government should take some necessary measures as it is the Government who can save it and not the people,” he added.