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Good News from the Valley, Srinagar Joins UNESCO Creative Cities of Network Club

Srinagar has become one of the 49 cities in the world to join the UNESCO Creative Cities of Network The city got this recognition for its craft and folk art The tag will give global recognition to art and the artisans, says Municipal Commissioner Athar Aamir Khan

Srinagar is the northernmost city of India and a city that is unparalleled in beauty. The ‘Land of Lakes and Gardens’ is the crowning glory of India. Now this beautiful city has become one of the 49 cities in the world to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). UCCN is a club of 295 cities from across 90 countries that invest in culture and creativity like craft and folk arts, music, film, design, gastronomy, media art and literature, to advance sustainable urban development. Srinagar got the recognition in the field of crafts and folk art.

The Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO (INCCU) had recommended two names from India. One was Srinagar for Crafts and Folk Art, and the other city was Gwalior for music. However, Gwalior couldn’t make to the list of UCCN.

In an exclusive interview to Indian Masterminds, Mr. Athar Aamir Khan, who is the Commissioner of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, shared details about the Srinagar’s UNESCO tag.

ART AND CRAFT OF SRINAGAR

Srinagar has a long tradition of art and crafts, some of which are – papier-mâché work, walnut woodcarving, pashmina shawls, silverware, copperware, namdas, silk sarees and garments, etc. “Srinagar is rich with its art and craft works. Some are as old as 14th century while some got evolved over the 16th century,” said Mr. Athar Aamir.

Picture shared with UCCN

In the city, around 40,000 craftsmen are directly related to art and crafts of Srinagar. They are registered with the handicraft department of Jammu and Kashmir. “The art and craft cater to around 10% of our economic production. Srinagar is mostly famous as a tourism city as well as a handicraft city, and our economy mostly revolve around these two,” shared the Commissioner.

HOW UNESCO TAG WILL HELP

Commissioner Athar Amir said that the UNESCO tag is going to help them in many ways. He says that it will give a global recognition to their arts and artisans. Secondly, it will give them a platform to showcase the art and craft on the global arena.

The tag also opens up revenue for collaboration with all the 295 cities which are part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities of Network. “We can collaborate with them on research, marketing, economic development, sustainable development, keeping creativity in art and craft at the centre,” said Mr. Amir.

When a country or city becomes a part of UNESCO’s network, it has to shoulder lots of obligations and commitments as well. “By fulfilling these commitments, we can do so much for the benefit of craftsmen, whether in terms of taking care of their marketing or just basic facilities,” he added.  

INITIATIVES FOR DEVELOPING ART & CRAFT

The Commissioner also shared with Indian Masterminds that there are various schemes which have been initiated by the government for the welfare of the artisans. There are also individual craft-oriented schemes which are targeting Pashmina wool development. Some other initiatives are for silk, while some are for wood carving and papier-mâché. There are sector-specific and craft-specific schemes which are individually targeting promotion and development.

Picture shared with UCCN

“We are also working on developing the craft development institutes and developing international craft centres. Similarly, we have heritage markets in the old city which are famous for these crafts. So, we are now developing these age-old heritages and are supporting these craftsmen,” the officer informed.

At the same time, he added that there are lot of entrepreneurs and firms which are coming up and looking forward to take local art and craft to the global market. “We are trying to support these firms through smart city and industrial departments,” he said.

PROCEDURE TO ENTER UCCN  

Srinagar had applied in the year 2018 itself, but due to certain reasons it couldn’t get through. Five Indian cities are already part of UNESCO Tag – Mumbai (Film), Hyderabad (Gastronomy), Chennai (Music), Varanasi (Music), and Jaipur (Craft and Folk Art).

The successful dossier that took Srinagar to the UCCN was made by the Municipal Corporation of Srinagar along with the INTACH Kashmir and Department of Handicraft. After filling the application for this year, it was sent to the Government of India for recommendation and endorsement. There is an organisation in the Government of India called the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO, which is a part of the Ministry of Education.

The whole procedure includes number of endorsements from number of people and agencies. “We got those endorsements from Crafts Council of India, All India Crafts Welfare Association, and also from the Mayor of Srinagar,” said Mr. Aamir.

Srinagar Municipal Corporation applied for UCCN in the month of May, 2021 and the endorsements were made in the month of June. In the first week of November, the UNESCO Secretariat evaluated these applications with the help of an expert committee which looks into the culture and creativity of different cities. After this, the final list of 49 cities was declared, and Srinagar was on it! 

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