Basket weaving soon to be history in this Bhutanese village, as last weaver quits

Generations in the village have earned their livelihood and passed off their traditional skill of weaving cane baskets to the next generation, but for Tshering Legi, the one she is weaving right now could be the last such basket,  thus ending a thousand-year-old tradition in Banjar village of Tsamang Gewog block in Mongar district of Bhutan

Oct 27, 2020
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Generations in the village have earned their livelihood and passed off their traditional skill of weaving cane baskets to the next generation, but for Tshering Legi, the one she is weaving right now could be the last such basket,  thus ending a thousand-year-old tradition in Banjar village of Tsamang Gewog block in Mongar district of Bhutan. 

Banjar village, situated in the eastern part of Bhutan, has abundance of raw material required for weaving baskets. Nearly every house in the village, until very recently, used to weave these baskets to earn their living. Two-three members of each family had always been aware of the technical know-how of this age-old practice. 

Today, out of thirty families residing in Banjar, only five engage in this business; of them, only Tshering Legi, 43, takes orders from customers on a regular basis. “It is not profitable or sustainable as the time taken to weave on Zephu takes about a week and sells between $24 to $27,” Tshering, a mother of three, quoted by kuenselonlnine.com as saying. She said after finishing it she may call it a quit, pointing her finger towards a basket. She prefers working as a daily wage earner now.

With good roads, electricity in the village, and availability of the internet, Banjar village’s destiny has changed quite fast in the last ten years as it embraced the impact of 'development'. Kids are attending good schools and then getting good government jobs and some taking up other relatively better private jobs, the village struggles to find anyone interested in learning this skill. 

Heavy bargaining, difficulties in storing raw materials, and lack of profit further contributed to the decline of the practice. “With a daily wage of $7 for women and $8 for men it is a far better option. That’s why most of the village folks have now quit it,” Tshering added while speaking to Kuensel news. 

Weavers get the raw materials from forests without paying any charges. But once they sell their product they are required to pay 30% of the sale amount to the village forest commission. 

With the arrival of new cane sampling, the availability of raw material has become even tougher as authority fears about sustainability if over-harvested. 

As Tshering Legi finishes her basket, a different destiny awaits for the next generations of Banjar village where unique skills of basket weaving will become a part of history. A history, they will be told, their proud ancestors were involved in for generations to sustain much-valued tradition. 

SPS-NBN

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