SAIMA SHAFI – a Potter, Engineer, Ceramist, Clay artist and an Educator
“The proudest thing I think I’ve ever done,
Such artistry, such skill I have attained!
The semi-glaze reflecting of the sun,
The richness of the blue, so lightly stained;
So perfect is the pointed pouring spout
That sits upon a rim of gold emboss,
And proudly do the handles both stick out,
I toiled and slaved for oh so many years,
My fingers ever wet and moist with clay,
But now at last I’m free of all the fears
And doubts that clouded me until this day.”
Kralkoor means literally the potter girl in Kashmiri and that’s exactly what she is Saima Shafi shaping pottery and sharing ideas.
Claymolding the thoughts and mentality of her patriarchal surroundings one creation at a time. Airdrying them with hard work and backlashes of anger and yet patiently trudging forward in her passion of creating works of art on a potters wheel and her mojo to bring about a change in the valley around the way women are perceived. Saina an engineer and a postgraduate in business are in a stable government job. But the hurts and devastation of personal life led her to explore an inner artist, a purpose that would define her meaning and existence in life.
Childhood memories of a visit to potters village where raw clay was moulded into art pulled her and she went on a soul searching artistic journey of learning to Bangalore. Returning a changed woman with the purpose of redefining the lower caste stigma to Potters and their amazing creative field which could be traced back to Neolithic ages in India and also to redefining the status of women and what all they could achieve with her unusual choices.
Saima consciously chose the handle Kral Koor which means potter girl in Kashmiri and is on a mission to make pottery a recognised art form with the help of her one of its kind pottery studio in Kashmir where she not only crafts unique pieces but also teaches (now slowly interested in the form) students. Infact right before the lockdown her plans to convert the place into an enigmatic experience for learner’s was shaping up well with renowned potters and pottery educators being earmarked to give lectures and classes at the studio. But the lockdown has not fazed this amazing woman of grit who is on an onwards journey of giving meaning to clay with a unique perspective.
You just have to look at the handcrafted pieces of keeping from her studio to know what bespoke feminism looks like. Yes giving alternate means of livelihood and recognition to the potter’s wheel was one motif but to redefine living life on your own terms as a woman of purpose especially after having gone through a bad divorce and personal crisis was her directive as well.
Life is not defined by the other presence in a woman’s life. Life can be much more beyond family and heart. And the definition of hearth can be a woman with a personal journey as well. Life need not stop after one sour experience there is much more to living than just a framed family photo. Saima is living experiencing and setting up an example in all. She has been recognised and applauded for her efforts by the press, the authorities and many but along with accolades, the criticism has been intense too, often targeting her personally.
From body-shaming her for her dark complexion to character assassination all have been a part of her journey which she manoeuvres with grit and determination. Never the one to play victim, she continues on her journey and dreams of a pottery school in the area to revive the glory of the Mohanjadaro era of the art form. Apart from the problems of mindset, there have been some based on her unique geographical placement as well. Because many products and raw materials which the newer techniques demanded were unavailable in and around the valley and had to be sourced from all around and for the valley often closed down to the outside world due to conflict, this was a major challenge.
The same went for visiting professors and artists from all over. But slowly with the influx of students and awareness, the art form of KralKoor is picking up. So much so that she is exporting to places like USA, Dubai, Switzerland apart from All around India. Her several exhibits around the area have garnered a very good response as well and the authorities have not been far in recognising her efforts and awarding her for the same.
The Departments of Tourism and Handicrafts have been close by in recognising her as well. The tribe of the Kashmiri Potter girl seems to be growing thanks to her good intent and hard work and persistence. Art as a means to redefine self —bravo!!!
YOUTUBE: Kral Koor
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