Sidra Khawaja

#Decolonization #Kashmir #Conflict #Craft

Khatamband is an exquisite art of Kashmiri woodwork that comprises the making of geometric ceiling finishes in Kashmiri homes. This ornamental wooden pattern also acts as insulation providing shelter against the severe cold of the region. It contains interconnected, repetitive reliefs that weave together to form a seamless surface with no absolute end. Khatam-band, of Persian origin, means an enclosure or coming full circle. Aptly named so, it manifests an intricate ceiling pattern where the possibility of creating multiple combinations out of basic geometric shapes is limitless.

Motifs play an important role in cultural identities and traditions. Often manifested on objects to tailor them to a have deeper sense of association and ownership. They become placards for tribes and civilizations and hence semiotically have substantial long-lasting impacts. It is due to this significant association with identity that this project attempts to deconstruct the seamless pattern found in Khatamband down to individual geometric elements and re-imagines them as separate Vessels: as ‘Vessels of Kashmiriat’ that are the carriers Kashmiri identity, dreams, aspirations, and hope... Craving to be understood and accepted on its own terms with a keen desire to preserve its identity that still survives in many a form of art, craft, literature and in its inherent mystical traditions.

This project acts as a metaphor alluding to the current turmoil Kashmiris find themselves in. The Vessels are created through molding-casting process, which itself has a deeper meaning of control and affect attached to it. To make these vessels the project began with wood as the starting medium like what the Khatamband were originally made of, but the subsequent molding and casting process yields transformed modular porcelain vessels. These objects can pe rotated, replaced, and reassembled in different ways to completely change their outlook and hence their meaning. This is fitting to represent the current political policy surrounding Kashmir that is about controlling the narrative about the Kashmiri conflict to fit different political interests. All this at the expense of Kashmiri identity, safety and stability. Khatambands are a symbol for shelter, a roof above their heads while vessels are containers of lives, ambitions, and hope yet today both are toys in the hands of people who are manipulating them to tell their own tales.