Shafiya Shafi, Kashmir’s First Woman Wall Painter


Art Art On The Wall

Visit Srinagar, and you shall be surprised to see remarkable artwork on the walls of some restaurants and hotels. Chances are the artwork has been done by Shafiya Shafi, a young self-taught designer of the Jammu-Kashmir’s winter capital.

Kashmir has a rich heritage of art. The outer walls of houses, inner walls, ceilings. Elaborate carpets, doors, windows. Intricate artwork on shikaras, silverware, wood carvings, crewelwork, utensils, curtains, and home furnishings. These have always been marked by highly refined artwork.

At Lal Bazar in Srinagar lives a 25-year-old woman whose grandfather was a goldsmith. He used to create his own designs in gold. Perhaps these are the genes that have blessed Shafiya, and enable her to create the most beautiful art and wall murals. A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other permanent surfaces. This is the unique talent of Shafiya. Where other artists may limit themselves to canvases, Shafiya makes walls come alive, singing in joyous colours. She is also Kashmir’s only woman wall painter.

There is a beautiful quote in the book The Alchemist, one of the best-selling books in history, and translated into 67 languages. The quote says: When you want something, the whole universe conspires in order for you to achieve it. Shafiya discovered this on her journey of art. Her father Mohmmad Shafi Zargar is a businessman, and her mother Asiya Shafi is a home maker.

From childhood, all Shafiya wanted to do was to paint. She took tuitions for children so that she could buy paints and brushes, and create the artwork she wanted. Shafiya says this was because she never wanted her passion to be a burden on her parents.

Now, paintings by Shafiya adorn homes and restaurants across Kashmir. Her paintings are travelling to various places within the country and also abroad. She has painted for clients in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and other states. Her customized artwork has also travelled to England, USA and Canada.

Shafiya has been painting professionally for three years now. She teaches art in Dubai Grand International School in Srinagar, and is also getting her website made.

Shafiya recalls that her first income was Rs 800, when she painted a portrait for someone. The demand for her artwork boosted her confidence, and she got inspired to devote more of her time to her passion.

The gifted painter says that her family did not support her initially. “They always told me that this job is not suitable for girls. You should leave it. I did not lose hope and managed to continue with my artwork,” says Shafiya.

Even after she got many opportunities for wall murals, Shafiya says the insecurity of her parents continued. “They kept telling me that there is no scope for art in Kashmir, and it is not of any use. But I did not lose hope and continued,” says Shafiya.

The young painter strongly believes that parents must allow children to fulfill their dreams.

“It is sad that our parents believe that doctors or engineers are the only professions suitable for children. This mindset must change. Children are gifted in diverse ways. The support of a family is very important to enable children to fulfill their dreams,” Shafiya belives.

Now, Shafiya makes artwork in calligraphy and papier mache too. She wants to expand her work and open her own art gallery. She says that her artwork has given her a voice to express herself. Shafiya is saddened by the limited scope for professional art study in Kashmir. “In Kashmir, we only have the BFA degree and no short term courses are available here. Self taught artists like me get discouraged when they are judged on the basis of degree,” she says.

Kashmiris who have seen Shafiya’s amazing paintings say this gifted painter has no reason to feel sad or discouraged. Her art speaks for her boldly and beautifully.


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