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Wisps of silver

The ongoing exhibition is an effort towards keeping the filigree form alive



Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

THE DISPLAY of intricately embellished silver filigree handicrafts leaves one awestruck. The fascination only grows as one takes in the fine detail and delicate craftsmanship. And surprise is in store for many when they learn that the artisans hail from the Karimnagar district.

Perhaps the influence of a variety of civilisations on the craft that thrived in many European, Persian and Central Asian countries explains the surprise element. The ancient Tuscans, Romans, Armenians, Greeks, all made filigree jewellery and the art form reached its peak during early 20th century and was patronised by the Nizam rulers of Hyderabad.

What adds to the beauty of silver filigree work is the artefacts have an intricate trellis-like network (jali ) made of thinnest and twisted silver wire. Totally handcrafted, it calls for hours of patience, dexterity and concentration. With the patronisation of Nizams gone, over the decades the craft became confined to 100 families in Karimnagar as lack of appreciation made many look elsewhere for sustainable livelihood.

Thanks to the efforts of the Department of Rural Development and Karimnagar DRDA that translated into the first-ever display of exquisite handicrafts by the artisans of Karimnagar at the Taj Residency in what was to give the craft the deserving exposure and help the artisans find their market directly from people who value and appreciate their workmanship.

On display are a variety of artistic Silver filigree items from simple brooch, key chains, silver trays, cute silver purses to pen holders, ornament and cigarette boxes, paan-daans, attar-daans, cake cutting knifes, glass holders, icons of gods and goddesses to replicas of globe, monuments like Charminar with intricate ornamentation and many more are on display with a price range of Rs.100 to Rs.20,000. They would sure make marvellous gifts and prized possessions, to lend that artistic elegance to ones home. More so with Diwali round the corner. The silver filigree items belong to that class of workmanship on which a connoisseur of art would not hesitate to spend a fortune. Yet while the artisans languish, it is the middlemen who flourish just by marketing in upmarket showrooms.

But things are set to change with a fund of Rs.183 lakh with Rs.75 lakh from the Centre, rest from the State and the banks sanctioned under a special project to promote the Silver filigree craft and help the artisans get their working capital, further hone their skills and in finding better markets through the formation of self-help groups and welfare society recently, says DRDA Director C. Suvarna.

The silver filigree handicrafts welfare society president Dayakara Chari who is keeping his flock together hopes things would change for the better for the Karimnagar silver filigree artisans loyal to their craft. The exhibition is on till November14.

M.L. MELLY MAITREYI

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