Preserving unique identities of Laya

The youth volunteers in Laya Central School have come together to revive its unique conical hat called Belo, traditional black skirt woven from yak wool and highland textiles in school.

More than 20 Y-VIA youth volunteers and teachers are involved in learning how to weave cone shaped hat, weaving traditional skirts and in making souvenirs from local textiles.

More than 20 Y-VIA youth volunteers and teachers are involved in this youth-led initiative

More than 20 Y-VIA youth volunteers and teachers are involved in this youth-led initiative

A teacher, Gyem Tshering, who is also the coordinator of the project, said if traditional crafts and textiles were not revived there were higher chances of losing these unique identities. “When we talk about Laya, the first thing that comes to our mind is the unique hat they wear. We aim to make these identities sustainable,” he said.

Laya Gup Lhakpa Tshering said the initiative if successful would help sustain age-old customs and traditions. “These ancient practices are nearing extinction,” he said. “Younger generation should be encouraged to preserve our culture and explore opportunities in it.”

Wearing the cone shaped hat has become rare over the years.

Today there are only two out of 250 households in Laya who can weave the hat. The elderly citizens and students of Laya Central School wear the hat and the traditional attire everyday.

The project also tried to include out of school youth and parents.

The coordinator said it was not easy to get the local trainers, as they were busy travelling between Gasa and Lunana doing business.

“There is not much commitment from out-of-school youth and parents don’t turn up because of the stereotype and works at home,” said Gyem Tshering.

Today there are 13 students learning how to weave the local hat, seven are learning how to weave local skirt called Zum, and seven are learning how to make souvenirs out of local fabrics.

Tenzin, a resident of Laya, trains students to weave the bamboo hat. “Students are enthusiastic to learn,” he said.

Tenzin earns at least Nu 1,600 per day weaving the hat. He finishes weaving three hats in a day.

Laya school is one of the most visited places by the tourist and trekkers.  The project aims to sell the products to the visitors and plans to hold an exhibition in the upcoming third Royal Highlanders Festival in October.

The youth-led initiative is supported by UNICEF and Youth Development Fund.

Nima | Gasa

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