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India: Srinagar makes it to UNESCO’s network of creative cities, earns praise from PM Modi

By Standard Reporter | December 9th 2021

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. April 2019. [Reuters]

The vibrant city of Srinagar, along with its army of artisans and their works, got a badge of honour on Monday when it was selected among 49 creative cities across the world by UNESCO.

The city, which hosts 50,000 locally registered hand-art workers and another 3,50,000 of their associates, nudged three other Indian cities to bag the rare honour.

“Srinagar was nominated ahead of Gwalior from India by UNESCO in Paris. It is great news for the people and its artists and craftsmen,” an elated Mehmood Shah, director of Handicrafts, told News 18. By virtue of this feat, it is now a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

The UNESCO announced the list of cities on its official website on Monday and Srinagar was chosen for its focus on crafts and folk art. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed happiness over this achievement.

“Delighted that beautiful Srinagar joins the @UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) with a special mention for its craft and folk art. It is a fitting recognition for the vibrant cultural ethos of Srinagar. Congratulations to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said in a tweet.

Srinagar was chosen for its focus on crafts and folk art. [Courtesy/News18]

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha also congratulated the people for making it to the distinguished list. The UNESCO Network now numbers 295 cities reaching 90 countries that invest in culture and creativity – crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music – to advance sustainable urban development.

“A new urban model needs to be developed in every city, with its architects, town planners, landscapers and citizens”, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay was quoted as saying on the organisation’s official website. “We are urging everyone to work with States to reinforce the international cooperation between cities which UNESCO wishes to promote,” he said.

Other cities that made it to the Network include Abu Dhabi (UAE), Doha (Qatar) and Bursa (Turkey). Mehmood Shah told News18 that the inclusion of Srinagar in the creative city network will help artisans showcase their handicrafts on the global stage.

“This is going to project Srinagar in a bigger way - both as an art and as a tourism destination,” he said, adding that tourism and art are integral to city’s development and popularity.

He said the dossier for nomination of Srinagar as a creative city was first filed in 2019 but it could not make the cut. “This time a lot of efforts were made by teams of INTACH and handicrafts to prepare a dossier,” he said. Shah said that four cities - Indore, Gwalior, Kolkata and Srinagar - were picked up by the Union Culture ministry to be sent for nomination to UNESCO but Indore and Kolkata were dropped later. “Out of Gwalior and Srinagar, the latter was picked for a special feat," he said.

Only two cities - Hyderabad for gastronomy and Mumbai for films - were chosen during that year. Only three Indian cities were recognised as members of UCCN for creative cities, namely Jaipur (crafts and folk arts) in 2015, Varanasi (creative city of music) in 2015 and Chennai (creative city of music) in 2017. In 2020, UNESCO did not ask for applications for creative city network. 

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