Wandering the cobbled streets of Karimabad in Hunza Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, you might come across a few shops that sell beautiful handcrafted Hunza wooden products like spoons, forks, knives, bowls, and musical instruments. One of the artisans who has opened a similar small shop is Shafqat Karim, a Burusho local of Karimabad Hunza.
The woodcraft industry of Hunza started dying off as early as the inauguration of Karakoram Highway (KKH). A decade ago, a handful of artisans started some an initiative to revive this dying craft. Shafqat Karim, the founder of Hunzo-e-Hayay, was one of them.
Shafqat gave up being a policemen to follow his passion for wood work and carving. He’s a totally self-taught artisan who loves sitting in his workshop experimenting with different local woods of walnut, almond, apricot, cherry and pear that he picks from towns in Hunza and the surrounding valleys.
He spends a lot of the autumn months travelling through the Upper Hunza valleys of Shimshal, Gojal and Nagar Valley across the Hunza river looking for old trees that have fallen down during the past winters. Never in his wildest dreams would he cut down an fresh tree – Shafqat is not only a budding artist but also a serious conservationist.
There are a handful of other wood artisans in Hunza just like Shafqat who are passionate about reviving what is still considered a dying art. They make a whole range or products like salad servers made from apricot wood, bowls made from cherry wood, and wonderful serving spoons made from walnut wood among others.
You can find Shafqat Karim’s shop called “Hunzo-e-Hayan” at the very top of the Karimabad Bazaar on the right hand side just before you reach Baltit Fort (next to the old flour mill).