28 November-4 December 2014 #734

Keeping traditions alive

Pasang Tsering tries to preserve and promote Himalayan textile traditions in his exhibition at Taragaon Museum
Stéphane Huët

Textile designer and collector Pasang Tsering’s debut exhibition, ‘Authentic arts of Himalayan range’ which opened last week at Taragaon Museum, is a celebration of traditional Himalayan textiles. And, with 100 pieces on show--from Persian to Bhutanese patterns, and with everything from rugs and wall hangings to cushion covers and boxes-- there is no lack of variety here.

Pasang, 56, entered the textile industry in the eighties, and sold carpets and shawls for over a decade before realising he wanted to study their history rather than just merchandising them. So, he set off to Tibet and India where he spent three months researching textiles.

“I’ve studied Himalayan textiles for over 35 years now,” he says. His creations are in Pasang’s words,“recreations of traditional Himalayan designs.”

While on Tibetan Plateau, he was most amazed to see the traditional way of fabric making. The all-natural process, which includes wool picking from animal sheddings, and use of flowers and wood for dye, inspired him to adopt and champion the traditional approach.

But, he was also sad to notice that the youth were not keen on continuing with the age-old tradition. “With more and more youngsters moving to the West, it’s become extremely difficult to sustain their participation in the sector,” says Pasang.

With roots in Tibet, Pasang felt even more obliged to do something to save the dying art form. In 1998, he opened the Authentic Arts of the Himalayan Range in Boudha, an institute that teaches eager students about Himalayan textiles and designs. Unfortunately, most choose to leave for abroad once they complete their education.

After his travel to Tibet, Pasang stayed in Boudha, where interactions with people from different ethnic groups who came to the stupa for pilgrimage became a part of his education. For Tsering, textile is an art. “Just like music, it’s a universal language that tells a lot about you,” he says. He insists on the sentimental and human values of these traditional textiles. “It’s not only designing, it’s more about a feeling.”

Pasang still meets a lot of young people and foreigners that want to know more about his art. This is why he plans to develop his institute to an actual museum that will value the Himalayan textile. He is still waiting for some support to implement this project.

The exhibition at Taragaon Museum also marks the beginning of Pasang Tsering’s association with the Wangden Rug project, a research project started by craft revival pioneer Thomas Wild in 1995 to study the oldest knotted pile technique in Tibet. The project lost its sponsorship from a Lhasa based charity in 2008, after political unrest forced foreign aid agencies to leave the Tibetan capital.

Pasang decided to sponsor the Wangden Rug Project because he saw the project as an extension of his own goal: to maintain and revive the art of Himalayan textile while providing livelihood to people at the same time. Says Tsering: “I try to contribute to their traditional development in my own way.”

Authentic Arts of the Himalayan Range

Taragaon Museum, Hyatt Hotel, Boudha

Until 3 December

8AM to 7PM

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