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Youth to fore

The rising profile of the Sultanate’s young artisans, who are riding a wave of reinvention of folk-based creations, is evident from the laurels they are winning across the world. They are becoming increasingly sought after in overseas exhibitions for their aesthetic appeal, ethnic chic and excellent workmanship. The return of youth in strong numbers augurs well for the Sultanate’s fabled traditional art and craft. As Public Authority for Crafts Industry (Paci) exhibition representatives Khamis Al Rawahi says, the appeal of the traditional craft is not just their aesthetic quality but their ability substantially mirror the rich heritage of the land that produce them. The nation’s traditional craft are received with enthusiasm in different parts of the world, wherever the exhibitions are held. It is a tribute to the nation’s rich and varied cultural history that Paci-sponsored exhibitions in United Kingdom, the US, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand have been thumping success. “We also give youth artisans opportunities to test their skills as entrepreneurs and set up their own gift shops.” It is a significant boost to the inherent entrepreneurial passion of the Omani artisans. The true soul of a culture is manifest most in its traditional craft. Artisans who create the craft therefore deserve reverence as they are the people directly in touch with the core values of a culture. The Sultanate with its huge wealth of traditional art has always held craftsmen in high esteem.

Communities across the land have watched the work of these people who have added value to the society they live in through innovation and hard work. An artisan has the imagination of an artist and skill of an engineer and contributes simultaneously to the society’s aesthetics and economy. In fact the artisans bring out their creations through endless toil in an environment of minimal automation. They are not mere traders though they have to market their creations. The role agencies like Paci is extremely relevant when considering the fact that it’s the creative talent and not the merchandising one that is more prominent in an artisan. This may cause them to fall prey to unscrupulous middlemen or traders. That is why the government takes extra care to protect their craft and ability to ply their trade. Experts in the fields of art, sociology and economics have suggested various ways for protecting the artisans. If a craft is lost to the society, it would be a huge loss to the posterity. As academic at the Sultan Qaboos University Badar Mohammed Al Ma’amari says there must be conscious effort to protect the artisans and help them to preserve their craft. The task of the youth who return to their traditional craft is stupendous in the view of the availability of cheap imitations that suppress the market. Tourists are seldom wise to the tricks of the trade and cannot tell a genuine one apart from a fake one. The excellence that Omani craftsmen have achieved was evident recently when six handicraft items from the Sultanate won top awards at the prestigious World Council of Handicrafts Award for Craft Excellence hosted by Kuwait. It shows that when the government sets up competent agencies with dedicated people at the helm, the result will not be slow to show up.