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Artisans show their skills in various crafts during the exhibition at Lok Virsa on Tuesday. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad
Artisans show their skills in various crafts during the exhibition at Lok Virsa on Tuesday. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: A three-day National Exhibition of Dying Crafts opened at Lok Virsa on Wednesday, aiming to promote endangered skills and encourage the artisans associated with them.

Artisans from all the provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir are participating in the exhibition. On Wednesday, the demonstrated their crafts for visitors at their stalls.

The exhibition was opened by Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood, and the opening ceremony featured live folk music performances and multimedia presentations on endangered crafts.

Having spent the last 50 years in Sindhi block making, Imdad Ali is still waiting for his craft to be recognised.

“The skill has been passed down for three generations. Without these blocks, printing Ajrak shawls would not be possible,” the 70-year-old craftsman said.

Ghulam Fatima from Multan has been making stuffed paper horses, known as Ghuggoo Ghoray, since she was a child and has now passed the art on to her children as well.

“We do not see most of these toys anymore, and our children cannot associate with them today,” Lok Virsa Executive Director Shahera Shahid said.

“Our concern is that very few people who make traditional musical instruments, embroidery or traditional toys are left. These arts are not being transferred. Because this craft is not being sustained, the new generation is not interested in them.”

She added: “Lok Virsa has run several programmes to develop interest, but a lot more is required, such as making arts and crafts part of the syllabus.”

She explained that if they are not saved now, these crafts will disappear completely, adding: “The reason we have invited children is so that they can learn and own their heritage.”

Mr Mahmood said: “It hurts to call them dying arts. It is important that there is a platform for artisans to display their works. Master craftsmen should be given incentives to pass on the skills they had learnt from their forefathers. It is also important to document these crafts.”

He added there is a need to develop a new policy in collaboration with the concerned ministries to preserve traditional arts that have been passed down for generations.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019