Tsebar women switch from weaving to metal design

The reason being that the latter craft is far more profitable than the former

Handicraft: It is 8am, a mild morning in Duwang in Pemagatshel.  Karma Zangmo, 30, helps her two children get dressed for school. She has their lunch packs ready.  As the little ones hurry out the door, there is a contented smile on Karma’s face.

Home chores all done, Karma Zangmo waits for her friends.  She has by her side a small mat, a set of metal tools, and a wooden table. She takes out a small hammer and begins carving designs on a piece of metal sheet, holding the carving tool with the ease of an expert.  It is a fine work of tay (traditional design) for religious instruments like duung and jaling.

Tsebar in Pemagatshel is known for duungs and jalings.  This tradition of making exceptionally fine instruments is not only alive but also thriving.

Karma Zangmo is now joined by her three friends.  They have the same portable tools.  Work begins in earnest. Women in Tsebar prefer tay to weaving because of the money in it.  It is by far the most profitable business in the village.  In Tsebar today, there are just about a handful of women who weave.

Karma Zangmo has been designing such pattern for more than 12 years. Younger women come to her to learn the art of tay.

“Weaving isn’t a lucrative business. Young girls come to learn from us,” says Karma Zangmo.

Karma Tshomo, another villager, said she got into making designs for instruments since she was 18 years old.  It was the best option and she doesn’t regret it.

“I’ve never tried weaving.  And farming is becoming increasingly difficult,” said Karma Tshomo. “Tay is the best. It doesn’t require a lot of hard work in the sun.”

Tay has become so popular that it is not only the women of the village who have taken to it.  Even the wives of civil servants come to Karma Zangmo and her friends to learn how to do it.

Tshering Lhamo, a housewife, said: “When I first came here I was amazed to see women sitting outside and making these wondrous designs. I wanted to learn. I can now make some designs and make good money in a month.”

Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Crafts (APIC) trained village women on designs last year.  With new designs, women now earn about Nu 700 a design.  One designer can do about two design plates a day.

The women designers of Tsebar said that it would help them if there were some monitoring office.  Although what they design is worth Nu 700 or more, they make do with Nu 400 most of the time.

“Because of this, we mostly do old designs. New designs are expensive for people to pay us for the amount of work we do,” said Karma Zangmo. “It’s a bit discouraging when this happens.”

It is 5pm.  The women pack their tools and head home.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Pemagatshel 

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