…𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒆𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒂𝒗𝒐𝒓 𝒐𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒖𝒔 𝒄𝒓𝒖𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒍 𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒆, 𝒂𝒊𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒂𝒏𝒂𝒈𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒅𝒂𝒊𝒍𝒚 𝒆𝒙𝒑𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒆𝒔 𝒔𝒖𝒄𝒉 𝒂𝒔 𝒑𝒖𝒓𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒗𝒆𝒈𝒆𝒕𝒂𝒃𝒍𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒇𝒖𝒍𝒇𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒄𝒉𝒊𝒍𝒅𝒓𝒆𝒏’𝒔 𝒓𝒆𝒒𝒖𝒊𝒓𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔, 𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒍𝒖𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒇𝒆𝒓𝒓𝒆𝒅 𝒎𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒔.
A group of housewives in Thimphu are carving out a niche for themselves, supporting their families by braiding the side fringes of the kira, kabney, and rachu. The kira, the traditional dress worn by Bhutanese women, is often adorned with intricate patterns and vibrant colors. Braiding its side fringes requires not only skill but also a keen eye for detail. This skill has become a vital source of income for many women, with some engaging in it part-time while others rely on it as their primary livelihood.
Pricing for the braiding service varies depending on the type of kira, with more elaborate designs commanding higher fees. The women collect a number of kiras based on their individual capacity, carefully braiding each before returning them to the respective shops. They take pride in their work, contributing to the preservation and celebration of Bhutanese textile traditions.
Tshewang Dema shared, “Braiding kira is a part-time endeavor for me. Whenever I find myself with some free time, I visit a Bhutanese clothing shop to pick up a kira for braiding. I’ve worked with two types of kiras- one with a single thread and the other with a double thread. For the single-threaded kira, I receive Nu 250 per piece, and for the double-threaded, I’m paid Nu 300 per piece. The single type usually takes me a few hours to complete, while the double type can take a few days. This timeframe varies, as I only engage in this craft during my spare time. There are others who do it full time, and for them, it might take considerably less time.”
Norbooz Buray from Textiles said, “The majority of our customers for this service are housewives. They often take on more than 10 pieces of clothing at a time. Completion time varies; some finish in just a few days, while others may take longer. We remunerate based on the type of kira and the quality of the braiding, with payment per piece ranging from Nu 300 to Nu 500. Some customers prefer to receive their payment in advance, while others choose to be paid upon completion of their work.”
This growing trend not only provides a source of income for these women but also keeps alive a vital aspect of Bhutanese heritage. While the task may seem small in the grand tapestry of Bhutanese culture, the impact of these women’s work is significant, both economically and culturally. It not only helps sustain traditional practices but also empowers women by providing them with financial independence and the opportunity to contribute actively to their local economy.
Sangay Palden, a 35-year-old local said, “Lacking a formal education, I’ve found it challenging to secure a proper job. My husband is employed with the Royal Bhutan Police and earns a decent salary, but with debts to pay and the responsibility of caring for our family and children, it’s often not enough. To help alleviate some of the financial burden my husband shoulders, I obtain kiras from textile shops and braid the fringes. This work provides us with essential additional income, helping to cover daily expenses like buying vegetables and meeting our children’s needs, including their desired foods.”
Pema Yangzom, a 40-year-old Thimphu resident, expressed, “As a housewife, finding ways to contribute to our household income has always been important to me. Braiding the fringes of kiras has become more than just a task; it’s a craft that I cherish. Not only does it help us financially, but it also connects me to our rich Bhutanese culture. The sense of accomplishment I feel when I see the finished product is deeply satisfying. It’s empowering to know that through my work, I’m keeping a part of our heritage alive and also supporting my family in a meaningful way.”
Choki Wangmo, 32 years old, stated, “Braiding kira fringes has been a transformative experience for me. Before this, I was primarily involved in household chores and raising our children. Now, I have the opportunity to earn my own income while working from home. It’s a skill that requires patience and attention to detail, and I take great pride in the quality of my work. This not only adds to our family income but also gives me a profound sense of independence and self-worth.”
For visitors to Thimphu, witnessing the art of kira braiding offers a glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of Bhutan and the important role that these women play in preserving their national heritage.