Jammu and Kashmir have been dubbed as 'paradise' on earth for time immemorial due to their serene and pristine surroundings. The region has its art, craft, and culture, making it stand out from the rest. Not only that, the creations beautifully depict Kashmiri history and have a story to tell. Talented artisans and craftspeople are responsible for preserving the culture created out of love for their homeland.
In the current times, such creations are getting a global appeal. The internet is turning out to be a blessing in disguise for the community. It is responsible for giving them and their efforts a distinct identity. 'Sonth' is one such platform. It is a one-of-a-kind design studio creatively inspired by the hues and colours that define Kashmir and its people.
Celebrating Kashmir's Beauty
The word 'Sonth' means 'spring' in Kashmiri, giving the platform wings to flourish. It is started by three artists, Onaiza Drabu, Mahvash Masood, and Nusaiba Khan. "Spring is the season here of almond blossoms, crisp mornings and greenery. When we started, we thought we would keep it rooted like Kashmir. Therefore, we came up with this name as it gives more hope for the future," Onaiza Drabu tells The Logical Indian.
This is not the first time the founders worked together on an artistic endeavour. A few years ago, they worked together on an exciting project that paid tribute to the women who played an integral role in the region's history. Drabu explains, "We came together to make a calendar that celebrates Kashmiri women. Along with my friends, many others also joined the collective. After its culmination, we stayed in touch, creatively and otherwise."
It was only a matter of time when the trio decided to dabble into giving the local crafts a suitable platform. In itself, Kashmiri crafts are incredibly ornate and mesmerising. While Nusaiba and Onaiza were familiar with the artistic side, it was Mahvash's wide network of local artisans that helped take the platform in an exciting direction.
'Sonth' focuses on famous Kashmiri crafts in Papier Mache, Traam (focussing on brass and copper), Woodwork and historic prints and embroidery such as Aari and Tilla.
Giving Women Artisans Recognition
What makes 'Sonth' stand out is the involvement of women. Along with the female founders, they have a women-led team of artisans encouraged to create masterpieces that are deeply entrenched with the region's rich cultural history. "Women in Kashmir are so much more powerful than they are given credit. They contribute so much to our culture. Right from logistics and the artistic work, most of them are women in the team." Drabu continues her conversation with The Logical Indian.
While the Woodwork is done mainly by men, women are responsible for the embroidery, and Papier Mache works. She adds, "When it comes to Aari and Tilla, we always make sure that we work with women artisans. Also, they are more than willing to experiment." Currently, the team at Sonth comprises both men and women. The former handle wooden crafts and 'Traam' items while the latter look into the rest of the skills to apply their creativity.
Flourishing Through Hurdles
Communication and internet blackouts became an unfortunate norm for people in Jammu and Kashmir. While there are thriving small businesses, the restrictions have adversely affected them. 'Sonth' was no different. "There is a huge difficulty because you have no idea when the internet will be cut off. Our communication is hampered," Drabu explains.
Further, she narrates an incident where they received complaints from customers as they did not get their orders on time. "There was a blackout because of which we could not ship orders in a timely fashion. Thankfully, I was not in Kashmir. Therefore, I could share an update on our Instagram page about the same. However, once the internet was restored a week later, we received many messages asking about the orders. When I told them there was an internet shutdown, they responded by saying you could have informed us! The people worldwide do not understand the magnitude of the problem and what it means."
Despite the hurdles, 'Sonth' is winning hearts all around. Apart from the naysayers, several people have understood the situation and supported them throughout. With love pouring in, the artists aim to take their endeavour forward and establish a physical shop, showcasing the items that give the region's artistic beauty a distinct identity.