Rahmat Wali Zarsun is an exceptional human being from Pakistan’s Kalash Valley who attained the mastery of wood carving despite being physically challenged. Although the lower half of his body is paralysed, this indomitable spirit sculpts wood with the unmatched skill to create truly exceptional artefacts.
Wali lives in Kalash Valley, Chitral where he makes his art pieces and sells them for a living. The Truth International sat down with Wali to talk about his experience of life and his creativity.
TTI: Tell us about yourself, your place of birth and where you grew up.
Wali: My name is Rahmat Wali Zarsun. I am 45 years old. I was born in Rumboor in Kalash Valley, Chitral. I grew up here and still living here with my family.
TTI: Tell us about your family and studies
Wali: I have never been to school and never studied. I live in a joint-family. I have three brothers, my parents and grandmother living under the same roof.
TTI: Why did you start this work?
Wali: Since half of my body is paralysed from childhood, I have been dependent on my father and brothers who brought home food and fed me. After I grew up I started to wonder what would happen to me if my parents died. Who will feed me? How will I survive? This thought kept me restless.
I started to think about how I could stop being dependent and make a living of my own. In my neighbourhood, wood sculpturing was common. People would make everything with wood. I thought of making different things of wood since I could still use my hands. I learnt the skill and started my own business.
TTI: How do you sell these pieces – what is your channel of selling?
Wali: I have a contract with Hindukush Heights [a tourist resort in Chitral] where my work is displayed. People, including foreigners, buy my pieces that are displayed and I receive orders to make pieces for people. I make human sculptures, religious figures and others.
TTI: How much time does it take to make one piece?
Wali: It depends on the type and size of the piece being made. If I am making a human sculpture, it takes about 23 days to a month. If the piece is smaller, it would take a couple of weeks.
TTI: How much revenue does this business generate for you? Wali: I sell human sculpture for PKR 85,000. Other pieces are also more or less the same price. It depends on how much work the sculpture requires and the price is determined accordingly.
TTI: How much to you make on a monthly basis?
Wali: I get to sell one or two pieces in the time of 3 months or longer. It takes a month to make one piece but it takes months to sell them. As I receive an order I start working on it. Once it is ready, its full payment is received on delivery. I get more orders when Chitral is visited by foreigners.
TTI: Have you received any recognition for your work?
Wali: I have been called by Lok Virsa in Islamabad, where my work is also displayed and sold. My work was once sold in a yearly exhibition. I was interviewed by a newspaper in Islamabad while I was visiting there for the exhibition. I also received a huge order from the exhibition. I looked for the wood there to start work but could not find the kind I was looking for so I went back to Chitral to find the wood and work on the order. I have received recognition on social media, including Facebook.