Thari women crafts earn laurels for Pakistan at world’s largest folk art event

Sameer Nazir
Pakistan women artisans from Thar desert of Sindh province one the only berth in world’s largest Folk Art Market in United States among 160 artisans selected from 62 countries through experts after strong competition. The 11th Three-day International Folk Art Market is being held in world’s oldest capital Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, United States from July 11 to 13.
Traditional Ralli Quilts made by the artisans led by Naina Valasai from Tharparker have made her group called Lila Handicrafts the only one from Pakistan who succeeded in the Folk Art Market at the world’s famed folk art market. “I am proud that our country’s folk art will be on display at this event to dispel the negative impression about Pakistan and to tell that we are inheritors of one of the oldest civilization in the human history,” she said.
Naina is wife of Surendar Valasai, who is Advisor to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Minority Affairs. She never been to a school and learnt the Ralli Quilt making from her mother and grand-mother.
Previous year, she had been invited by the Asia Pacific Museum’s Pakistani Arts Council in Los Angeles as Artisan at work and earned admiration from Pakistani community and others in California.
According to The Associated Press report from Sante Fe, Santa Fe’s famed summer market season opens this weekend with the International Folk Market, the world’s largest folk art market and one dedicated to helping artisans from impoverished nations start their own businesses.
And as the popular market celebrates its 11th anniversary, it is drawing more than just tourists and locals. Organizers say designers from some of the most prestigious fashion brands are headed west to find inspiration for ethnographic prints and one-of-a-kind handmade pieces that are increasingly popular in the fashion world.
“We’ve had many fashion experts shop the market, visionary designers from Donna Karan, Yves Saint Laurent, Anthropologie, and Coach among them,” said market founder Judith Espinar. “We keep hearing that the market is a creativity hotspot, a place to exchange ideas and inspire and be inspired_for artists, retailers, collectors, and visitors alike.”
This year, more than 160 artists from 62 countries will be selling their work, including includes scarves, jewelry, textiles, basket and host of other art pieces.
The market is expected to draw 25,000 visitors from Friday to Sunday. It brings some of the world’s finest artisans from far-flung and often poverty-stricken locales, helping participants with travel costs and giving them training for building businesses and cooperatives when they get home. Over the years it has logged $19 million in sales, 90 percent of which goes home with the artists.
“On a trip to India recently, I was reminded of how hard it is to find high quality, handmade folk art,” said Peter Speliopoulos, creative director of the Donna Karan Collection. “I kept thinking about the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, and what a well-curated selection of the world’s folk art is there. In a weekend you have access to the highest quality art, at good prices, from a world of cultures– and you feel the richness of interacting with the actual artists themselves. It’s amazing. ”
The folk art event is one of a series of markets taking place in Santa Fe this summer, including markets specializing in Spanish and Indian art and antiques.

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