…𝑹𝒂𝒅𝒉𝒊 𝑮𝒆𝒘𝒐𝒈, 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘𝒏 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒊𝒕𝒔 𝒖𝒏𝒊𝒒𝒖𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒆𝒙𝒒𝒖𝒊𝒔𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝒃𝒖𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝒕𝒆𝒙𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒆𝒔, 𝒊𝒔 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂 𝒔𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒑 𝒅𝒆𝒄𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒔𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒔. 𝑷𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒊𝒐𝒖𝒔𝒍𝒚 𝒂 𝒕𝒉𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒎𝒂𝒓𝒌𝒆𝒕, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑹𝒂𝒅𝒉𝒊 𝒃𝒖𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒑𝒍𝒖𝒎𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒆𝒅, 𝒊𝒎𝒑𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒍𝒊𝒗𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒉𝒐𝒐𝒅𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒍𝒐𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒘𝒆𝒂𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒔
Radhi Gewog, once renowned for its authentic and intricate buray (raw silk) textiles, is currently facing economic challenges due to an influx of cheaper buray products in Samdrup Jongkhar which are imported. This influx has led to a decline in sales, which is negatively impacting the local weavers who depend on the buray textiles trade for their livelihoods.
For generations, these skilled artisans have painstakingly woven the fabric of their community’s economy, transforming delicate threads into works of art that symbolize tradition and culture. Yet, the recent deluge of competitively priced buray textiles have precipitated a dire situation for these weavers, threatening to unravel their way of life.
Kinzang Yeshi, a resident of Pakaling and organizer of Thazo Tshokpa in Radhi Gewog, has expressed his concerns regarding the changing landscape of the buray industry. He lamented, “Tourists used to flock to Radhi Gewog, purchasing shawls, half kira, and mufflers from our weavers. However, nowadays, tourists are a rare sight.” Furthermore, festivals, which were once a peak season for Radhi buray sales, have also experienced a significant drop in demand.
Yeshi pointed out that competitors from other parts of the country are offering their products at lower prices, which makes it challenging for Radhi Gewog to remain competitive. He added, “Some sellers even claim that their buray is authentic when, in reality, it is not. This has resulted in instances where customers have been deceived as well.”
Tshewang Choden, a resident of Paro, shared her unfortunate experience, echoing the concerns of many. She revealed that a similar incident had happened to her when she purchased a kira. The seller had confidently claimed it to be an authentic buray, and she paid a substantial Nu. 12,000 for it. However, to her dismay, after just two washes, the vibrant colors of the kira began to fade, leaving it noticeably lighter. It was only later that she discovered the truth – the product was not the genuine Radhi buray she had believed it to be; instead, it was a mixture of lower-quality textiles from Samdrup Jongkhar.
Pema Lhachi, a 47-year-old weaver from Radhi with three children, expressed her sadness regarding the increase in cheaper products. She stated, “Nowadays, people favor more affordable options, and this is impacting our sales.” She also emphasized the importance of considering quality, saying, “Investing in one high-quality piece is often a better choice than buying multiple lower-quality items.” Pema revealed that her monthly earnings have significantly decreased, and there is a noticeable decline in interest in weaving buray among artisans.
Damchoe Dema, aged 30, hailing from Sangkhar in Radhi Gewog, mentioned that while the Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Crafts (APIC) and the Thimphu craft bazaar have provided platforms for selling their products, sales have not met their initial expectations.
Pema, a seasoned weaver who embarked on her kira crafting journey in 1999, reflects on the changing landscape of the buray industry. She observes a shift in consumer preferences, with people increasingly favoring more affordable and fashionable kiras from neighboring countries.
“Over the years, I’ve witnessed a significant transformation in the market,” Pema remarks. “Many weavers from various parts of the country choose to use lower-quality buray thread in their weaving, which allows them to offer their products at more competitive prices.”
Pema highlighted the challenges faced by weavers like her. “The materials we use are notably expensive, particularly the white plain yarn, which can exceed Ngultrum 3000 per kilogram. Our craft involves an intricate process, including the labor-intensive task of natural color dyeing for the white plain yarn. The advantage is that the original colors of our products remain vibrant and do not fade over time. This commitment to quality sets Radhi Buray apart and contributes to its relatively higher cost compared to other buray products,” Pema added.
Tsheiring Lhamo, presently residing in Thimphu, shared her perspective, stating, “Samdrup Jongkhar offers a range of reasonably priced products that my daughter prefers. Given my employment in a private firm, I tend to choose more affordable clothing options.”
In a community where over 100 women have dedicated themselves to the art of weaving buray textiles, a significant portion of them, 57 to be exact, are registered under Thazo Tshogpa. Their collective struggle to navigate the shifting currents of the market is a poignant reflection of the broader challenges facing Radhi Gewog.
As we delve into this intricate world of textiles and traditions, it becomes evident that the future of Radhi Gewog’s unique buray tradition hangs precariously in the balance. The influx of more affordable alternatives and the evolving preferences of consumers have cast a shadow over the painstakingly crafted buray textiles that have been the heart and soul of this community for generations.
While the challenges are undeniably daunting, the resilience and dedication of these weavers offer a glimmer of hope. Their commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and preserving the original vibrancy of their products are key differentiators that set Radhi Buray apart. However, it is clear that more concerted efforts, innovative solutions, and support mechanisms are needed to ensure the survival and resurgence of this cherished tradition.
The future remains uncertain, but the determination of these artisans, along with the collective support of communities, institutions, and consumers, may yet help Radhi Gewog’s buray tradition weather the storm and continue to grace the world with its exquisite beauty and cultural significance.