Shafia Shafi, A Young Calligrapher Of Kashmir

3 mins read
Calligraphy is a dying art in Kashmir but Shafia is aiming to revive it/The Legitimate/ Ashfaq Wani

Asem Mohiuddin

In a congested downtown area of Srinagar, a narrow lane in Lal Bazar area takes you to a two-story building. As you enter inside it, the aesthetically well painted walls seek your attention. Shafia Shafi, a 26-year-old young daughter of the family has expressed her feelings on these walls.  Shafia, a post-graduate in psychology is carrying out her mission to revive Kashmir’s richest art-Calligraphy. Recently, she decided to follow her childhood instincts and translated her passion for art and calligraphy into a commercial venture.

“Till recently I was doing this all for expressing myself, seeking peace of mind.  But my friends and teachers would appreciate my efforts and they would connect their emotions and feelings with my art,” a young girl recalls of her initial days.

As the world is virtually connected and social media platforms have enormous reach, Shafia displayed her work on social media pages.  Her work was widely appreciated and she began to receive orders by her friends.

“Initially, the people in my friend circle asked me to paint their portraits, names and some other kind of pictures. Many others asked to paint calligraphy on earthen pots and musical instruments.”

This is where her childhood love gradually transformed into a commercial venture. Shafia took orders and began to deliver on-demand.

In just a few years of time, Shafia is not only making her living out of it, she is contemplating to set up an art gallery and art therapy institutions in Srinagar.

“I want to scale up now this business. This has huge potential and people have a deep love for art in Kashmir and elsewhere,” Shafia observes.

“We need to encash over it and engage more and more people who do not only make living out of it but also give vent to their feelings to secure peace of mind,” she suggests.

The paintings of Shafia cover all issues related to society, conflict nature, etc/ The Legitimate/ Ashfaq Wani

Even though Kashmir has a history of being highly tolerant to endeavors of women in various fields, Shafia is somehow facing the male patriarchy.

“Some of my friends who placed their orders never paid me my dues. I knew I couldn’t fight them and they also knew it. So I gave up that money.”

The young artist even was cheated by one of the prestigious and richest schools in Kashmir.

As per the commitment with the school authorities Shafia was contracted to paint the walls of the administrative block of school. She scaled up the walls on the ladder and did her job passionately. The school earned the name and visitors would hook up to the walls given to her aesthetics feelings painted there.

Instead of paying the money against her job, Shafia was fired from the school where she was working as a teacher.

Given this bitter experience, Shafia feels victimized but never let it come in her way of work. She rather continues to do her work religiously but now deals with customers smartly.

The paintings hanging in her big hall on the second floor have powerful stories to tell. She is probably the only young artist in Kashmir who is least impacted by the existing political conflict of Kashmir. Her paintings hanging inside the room display pain, emotions, and tragedies within herself.

“Perhaps I never try to see what is happening outside. Because I see more painful stories buried inside the heart and soul of women that she never expresses.

Her paintings depict the social taboos, domestic violence, sexual harassment, gender exploitation that women normally doesn’t want to speak about.

“To me these are more powerful stories and need our attention. Being women I have least thought about physical conflict since there are bigger unheard stories in our hearts.”

“The pain physically visible gets our attention and people try to solace you but what about the issues that remain buried in your hearts and you feel not to express them for social stigmas,” she questions.

Shafia giving a final touch to a portrait before delivering it to a customer/ Ashfaq Wani/ The Legitimate

Love for calligraphy.

A student of Green valley educational institute and later pursuing post graduation in psychology, Shafia was since childhood connected to Calligraphy and art.

Young National awardees decided to revive the Calligraphy in Kashmir which earlier was fetching livelihood to thousands of people.

This visual art has a history in Kashmir and was growing for hundreds of years. With the advent of digital technology, this art is gradually vanishing from the scene.

“There are lovers of the art who still prefer to get their names and other things written by hand. That is a decent class of customers who respect it and pay you a dignified amount. So I deliver them the products and I think I need to make it common now to involve more people.”

Since most of the people who fall for the art do not have formal degrees from the institutions and Shafia sailing through the same waters has decided to encourage more people to take it as a profession in their lives.

“Degrees matter less when it comes to creativity. But in our system only degree holders can achieve jobs and opportunities in the respective fields. I want to break this system and ensure all those who have the capacity to deliver without degrees prosper and grow in Art and Calligraphy.”

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