Nepali Times Asian Paints
Preserving the social fabric


A weaver's deft fingerwork makes these woollen works of art possible.
When Australian artist Isabella Holding, 27, visited a carpet factory while on holiday in Kathmandu three years ago, she got a brain wave.

Back in Australia, she contacted some well-known Australian artists like Heather Shimmen, Euan Heng, Graham Fransella, Judy Holding, Rae Ganim,Wendy Teakel, Angela Cavalieri, and Kate Durhamand and got them to agree to incorporate their art into carpets that would be woven in Nepal.

Then she came back to Kathmandu and talked to Kiran B Khadgi at the Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS) in Lalitpur, who admits he found the idea of turning art into carpets a bit weird at first.

SHOWING OFF: Australian artist Isabella Holding (left) talks about the original artwork, 'Jezebel', which was turned into a carpet that Kiran B Khadgi (right) of the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Lalitpur, shows to a customer.

"How can you copy paintings into our carpets?" Khadgi recalls telling Holding, "but we said ok, we'll give it a try."
Holding was impressed with the result, and she organised an exhibition, 'Weaving Art and Change', in Melbourne last year with eight handwoven carpets from Nepal in limited editions of five. Each carpet sold for US$2,900.

"A lot of people like the idea that it was a collaboration with weavers in Nepal, and we could make a substantial donation to the Khumbeswor Technical School," Holding says.

At the KTS, 30-year-old Sumitra was quietly weaving a carpet on Monday, careful not to wake up her baby whom she brought to work because he had fever. Normally, he would be at the KTS day-care centre. Sumitra is on a six month apprenticeship to learn weaving. There are 17 other women weavers here between the ages of 17 and 55, seven wool spinners, two dyers, and a trimmer. Employees get free education for their children, medical insurance, and a savings scheme.

KTS is a founder member of Fair Trade Group Nepal, and this is what convinced Holding to work with the company. "When I visited KST for the first time, I was amazed by the work being done both creatively and socially in Nepal and wanted to help," she explains.

KTS also makes and sells furniture and knitwear, but 40 per cent of sales is from carpets. For Khadgi, the Australian collaboration is a win-win formula for his organisation, which benefits from employment creation and funding for its school and other facilities for employees.

"Best of all," Khadgi adds, "Isabella has made our carpets well-known internationally."

Weaving Art and Change in Nepal
23 September to 7 October
Siddhartha Art Gallery, Babar Mahal
4218048, 4438979

1. Tashi Lama
This wonderful art of weaving rug was introduced by Tibetan refugees in early 1960's. It was during the reign of king Mahendra, who supported and gave shelter to Tibetan refugees in Jawalakhel, Lalitpur. Later the Swiss Red Cross helped this skill grow into the consumer products to the Western market. In early 1980's markets started growing in the Germany,  in the year 1985 till early 19995, it was golden age of Nepali carpet exports to Germany, which in reality contributed a lot in foreign exchange, employment and the economy of Nepal. This rug industry started to decline due to the negligence of Nepal government and also of the rug buyers monopoly over many suppliers, and then came the many politically motivated labor unions, who brain washed innocent carpet weaver to rise against their employer, due to that many of the carpet factories were closed because of the unreasonable demands made by the union leaders and it became worse after the forceful Maoist unions came in, after that almost 65% of carpet factories were closed in Nepal, which in reality caused the loses of million of Dollars in revenue and also the employment. Government of Nepal should now give some priority to save this potential art of rug weaving by promoting it effectively international market and giving it a recognition of skill full art and the best exporters and weavers should be given a certificate of excellence. I am glad to know that an Australian artist sees it as an art of weaving, I am hopeful that this art of weaving rug will benefit Nepal and Nepalese for a long run.
I feel grateful to those Tibetan refugees who brought many skills of art and knowledge.  Especially the skills of rug weaving in Nepal in early 1960's proved very beneficial in the fields of Nepal's economy till today.      

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)