‘Aari work’: meet the award-winning landscape artist from Kashmir

Srinagar: The “Aari” staple or hook is a common form of embroidery in Kashmir, but master craftsman Mir Abdul Majid has taken it to another level with his landscape embroidered pieces.

One of his landscape works of Hari Parbat fort in Srinagar city was even kept as a souvenir by the late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and he later received the State Prize in 2017 for his contribution to art .

Popular “Aari work” in foreign countries

Hailing from the Kalai Andar district of the old city, Mir fondly recalls the days when the staple food “aari” was in high demand, especially among foreigners.

“I have been doing aari work for decades now. There was a time when our coats, dresses, stoles, etc. were mainly exported to foreign countries. There was a lot of demand for aari work but unfortunately we didn’t do much work after the Covid lockdown,” Mir told the Kashmir Monitor.

“Hari Parbat” for Indira Gandhi

He says he received a lot of encouragement from Indira Gandhi in 1983.

“Aari work is an art and I have visited several Indian cities in connection with my work. I once gifted Indira Gandhi in 1983 with a piece featuring Fort Hari Parbat embroidery work and received a lot of encouragement,” said Mir, who also happens to be a poet.

The Deputy Director of the Handicrafts and Loom Department, Dr. Shariq Iqbal, said Mir was a master craftsman who had made his mark in landscape embroidery.

Discover aari’s work at the Tulip Garden

“Mir Abdul Majid’s landscape embroidered pieces are so pristine and breathtaking that one of them was kept as a souvenir by the late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. His passion for this craft led him to travel for exhibiting his work across India where he has participated in exhibitions and trade fairs. He is a famous craftsman, renowned for his intricate pieces. His work is displayed at the emporium where scarves, shawls, pherans, shawls and costumes with aari embroidery. He was awarded the State Prize in 2017 for his contributions. As the Tulip Garden is about to open (March 23), his work will be exhibited on the one of the stalls to showcase Kashmiri handicrafts,” he told the Kashmir Monitor.

‘Aari work’ on the Srinagar Crafts Safari route

Incidentally, Mir Abdul Majid’s workplace located at Kathi Darwaza has been included in the ‘Srinagar Crafts Safari’ which was recently launched by the Department of Handicrafts. The safari started following Srinagar’s inclusion on the coveted list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the category of Handicrafts and Folk Arts for the year 2021.

Kashmir Handicrafts and Hand Weaving Manager Mahmood Ahmad Shah said they have launched the Srinagar Craft Safari as part of efforts to boost the handicraft sector.

“We have launched the Srinagar Craft Safari in different parts of the old town of Srinagar for people to experience the rich handicrafts. Through the safari, people will also meet the artisans and see how different handicrafts are made,” Shah told Kashmir Monitor.

Srinagar sixth Indian city on the UNESCO list

This year, Srinagar’s nomination was forwarded to UNESCO on June 29 by the Government of India (GoI) and now this nomination is global recognition of Srinagar’s rich craft heritage. Coincidentally, Srinagar’s application for nomination as a creative city was first filed by Srinagar in 2019. However, only two cities – Hyderabad for food and Mumbai for film were chosen that year. Prior to 2019, only three Indian cities had been recognized as Creative City members – Jaipur (Crafts and Folk Arts) in 2015, Varanasi (Creative City of Music) in 2015 and Chennai (Creative City of Music) in 2017.