25 graduates of NIZC were awarded certificates at the 15th National Zorig Day yesterday

Art: Bhutanese traditional arts and crafts are increasingly facing the threat from cheaper substitutes flooding the market while a few crafts are already on the verge of extinction with youth not wiling to take it up.

Recognising the importance of preserving the traditional arts and crafts, 25 graduates of the National Institute of Zorig Chusum (NIZC) were awarded certificates for completion at the 15th National Zorig day at Kawajangsa, Thimphu yesterday.

The day was dedicated to the birth of His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck.

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo awarded certificates to the graduates that completed diploma course in painting, jimzo (sculpture) and embroidery last year. Their works were also exhibited.

Traditional arts and crafts such as trezo (gold and silver smithy), chagzo (black smithy), shagzo (wood carving) and kozo (leather work) are at the verge of disappearing, Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said.

“Works should be strengthened towards reviving these age-old tradition and we are doing this by observing the importance of this day,” lyonpo said.

It was during the tenure of the Second Desi Tenzin Drukdra that the arts and crafts received recognition where lhadri (painting) and jimzo (sculpture) were promoted and the schools of arts and crafts institutionalised, Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that with the Trashiyangtse Institute of Zorig Chusum to be upgraded to Rigzhung College specialising in zorig chusum, it is expected that the target of reaching 26,000 skilled people in the country would be achieved.

Vice Principal of NIZC, Yeshey Namgay said the number of graduates from the institute is increasing every year, which is good in preserving the unique tradition.

In 2010, around 48 graduated and last year 113 students graduated.

“The increase is drastic and we are working towards attracting more young students to study our unique arts and crafts every year,” Yeshey Namgay said.

Believing in Bhutanese tradition, which she considers more grounded and pure, Yoko Ishigami, an artist from Japan travelled to Bhutan to study it in 2006.

She is one of the recipients of the certificates for completing six years studying Bhutanese paintings at the institute.

“Bhutanese traditional paintings are unique. Every symbol has a meaning. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to study this unique art,” Yoko Ishigami said.

In a previous interview, Yoko Ishigami said she valued traditional art because her country lost it. “We’re realising the importance of traditional art, which vanished after our focus shifted to modern art,” she said. “Traditional art represents one’s roots and history of country.”

Tae Kikuchi is another graduate from the institute. She, however, graduated in 2006. She studied the art of embroidery. Today, she takes Bhutanese embroidery classes in Tokyo.  Tae Kikuchi and her colleagues wanted to learn more about Bhutanese culture, so they can establish the Japanese Bhutanese Embroidery Association this year.

They organised an emblem design competition among the students studying at the institute. The winners were awarded cash prizes.

“The emblem will have an important meaning for all the members of the association and all our Bhutanese friends,” she said. “The competition is one of the commemorative events of the 30 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bhutan.”

The day was further observed by providing lhabsang thruelsey for the vehicles at the Technical Training Insitute in Thimphu. His Holiness Dungse Garab Rinpoche led the lhabsang thruelsey at the truck parking in Thimphu to observe the zorig day.

The Buddhist equivalent of Vishvakarma puja is Duekhor, which is also known as the god of wheel of time (Kalachakra in Sanskrit). The day was observed to ensure that Buddhist devotees knew that Duekhor held the same essence.

The National Zorig Day was first observed in 2001.

Thinley Zangmo