Only two Layaps know the art of weaving the bamboo hat
One of the distinctive features of the women of Laya is their bamboo hat worn that is with colourful beads. The hat hardly covers the head. It neither protects them from rain or the sun but for the young women of Laya today, the hat is among the ornaments they save to wear during festivals.
The hat was worn daily a decade ago but not anymore. Today, are only two persons, a man and a woman in Laya’s Neylu chiwog who can weave the bamboo hat. Laya has five chiwogs with a population of more than 12,000 people.
Dorji is 52 years and Chimi Dem is 47.
Dorji said that the younger ones are not interested to learn hat weaving. “It’s concerning to see the hat disappearing. I am worried that it might die with me. No one is interested to learn,” he said.
Dorji sells a hat for Nu 600. The highest number of hats he could sell was during local tshechu and the Royal Highland festival. This year he could sell around 40 hats which helped him earn Nu 24,000.
Chimi Dem said she takes a day to weave a hat. She said that it takes a whole day to collect the bamboo shoot from Tongchu dra, which is a four hours walk from Laya towards Gasa. It takes seven hours to reach Laya carrying loads from Tongchu dra.
“The number of women wearing hat has decreased drastically. They buy it only during festival time,” she said.
Dorji said that the elderly women who wear the hat daily are his regular buyers. “The hat hardly lasts a year.”
Dawa Pem, 57, from Chongra wears the hat everyday but observed that the lifestyle in Laya is changing. “The age-old customs are getting disappearing,” she said. “The unique craft is the only thing that attracts tourists and outsider to our place. If we fail to preserve this uniqueness, we will hardly see them visiting us.”