These extemporaneous remarks were originally delivered to honoured guests, attendees, and the Executive Committee of the Nepal Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (NCMEA) during the organization’s annual meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal on Wednesday, 29 March 2023. They have been automatically transcribed by artificial intelligence and lightly edited for syntax and clarity.
The production of carpets in Kathmandu has had a transformative effect on both the Tibetan refugee population and the native Nepali people. It is an industry which during its ascent, golden years, and decline – in volume – provided much needed foreign exchange for a country dependent upon such transactions. It created wealth both in Nepal and abroad, and it has undoubtably contributed to an increased standard of living in the country of Nepal.
I have thought long on this, in fact since November 2016 and I do not in any way claim to have the answers save one: I know if nothing is done, the facts speak for themselves. I have friends in Nepal who envision a guild of sorts which would certify the quality of workmanship and materials. I have other friends in Nepal who would join this guild if it meant they would sell more carpets. I see the possibility of this guild idea growing to include export organizations, and NGOs from the West. I see the Guild bringing together Nepalis, Tibetans, and Westerners with a renewed ‘we can rebuild’ attitude like that which existed in that ‘brief shining moment’ that was the aftermath of the earthquake; earthquake also as allusion to the long decline of Nepali weaving. I call upon any concerned importer or maker of Nepali-Tibetan carpets to if not join me and my colleagues in working toward this concept of Guild, at least acknowledge a new approach must be had. For those who feel as I do, that a more unified voice is required, that more can be done both here in the West but more importantly in Nepal as well, and that the status quo is less than acceptable, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you personally so that we can – collaboratively – truly give back to Nepal.
‘Now everything is back to normal.’ are the words that remain vivid in my mind. They had been spoken by a Nepali carpet maker as we discussed the current situation in Nepal. A mere (4) months hence from The Great Quake of Nepal and everything is back to normal. Despite the somber loss of life, the destruction of sites historic and otherwise, and the untold problems currently facing those in Nepal, everything is normal. Normal. He is not entirely wrong. Everyday people get up and go about their lives, perhaps differently than they did prior to 25 April 2015 perhaps not, but living their lives none the less – including of course making carpets. It’s a simple reminder that while the toll – human and otherwise – may have been severe, it could have been far worse. For those now in Nepal, life must move forward, infrastructure must be repaired or rebuilt, work must continue. As we find ourselves at this arbitrarily defined anniversary of sorts we must now wade into a discussion of what role the carpet industry plays in genuinely helping the Nepali people rebuild their country by asking: are we the well intentioned partners we imagine ourselves to be or are we modern day carpetbaggers?
Tukenkian Artisan Carpets has announced that their initial matching funds of $15,000 (USD) for Mercy Corps have been exceeded with contributions to date well in …
In the wake of a series of devastating earthquakes and aftershocks that have literally shaken the very foundation of Nepal, I find myself in an unfamiliar state of mind. Empathy has never been my redeeming quality, yet concern and anxiety occupy my thoughts of a people so far away, so impoverished, so disparate from my western life of relative comfort. How is it, that a Midwestern born, American expat living in rural New Brunswick, Canada can be so distressed about people he has never met? Grand philosophical reasons aside, the simple truth of the matter is that twenty (20) years ago fate and circumstance conspired as it were and I found myself at the beginning of a career, and a love affair, dedicated to modern handmade rugs and carpets and moreover to the best thereof. For those not as well versed, this includes what are arguably the very best carpets in the world: those made in Nepal. I’ve sold countless Nepali made rugs, I’ve written extensively on carpets both as an amateur and a professional, I’ve worked with some of the finest contemporary producers of carpets in the world, I own Nepali made rugs. But this isn’t about me. This is about Nepal and its people, the handmade carpet industry of Nepal, and how imperative it is that we all show real empathy for Nepal.
As an industry we bring modernity with all of its inconsequential demands to a place where subsistence agrarian culture still dominates the economy, where manual labour is a way of life, and were exploitation (in wide ranging and various forms) is still a major concern. We also have the ability to bring hope, compassion, understanding, and as I’ve called for, real empathy for the Nepali people. We do this by honouring them for all that they’ve done for us, and by continuing to work with them as they rebuild their country. They are a “patient, studious, artistic, nuanced and extremely hard working people, and I would not be who I am without them.” says Tom DeMarco of Kooches, speaking words universal to any serious designer of modern carpets. With that, The Ruggist presents a photographic journey that explores the best of Nepali made carpets.
The Sixth Opinion, my oft mentioned joke about any group of experts espousing more opinions than members of the group, is an inherent undercurrent in ours the world of rugs. Is a rug this? Is a rug that? What is the best quality? What makes a rug authentic? Crossed vs Uncrossed – if just to bring back to mind a fiery topic? All great questions, some with definitive answers, others with, how do you say, more nuanced positions. It’s the nature of our existence as humans, especially creative humans. There are billions of us, yet we all seem to think we each know the solution to every problem, we all know “what’s right”, we all know what’s best for mankind. Well definitively, with 100% certainty (outside of scientifically provable facts – and even that is somewhat iffy depending on how advanced our knowledge is) I can tell you that position is wrong. Just try to get a group of friends to decide where to go to dinner, and you’ll see pleasing everyone just isn’t possible.
Nota bene: This post was heavily revised on Tuesday, 28 April 2015 to reflect information available at that time. I spoke with a colleague in Kathmandu earlier this morning and while most of his family are safe, others remain yet to be located. He further reports their homes are destroyed, and the immediate concerns of shelter, food and medicine are top priorities.I would like to stress that many of the efforts listed here will have longer term benefits to Nepal, whereas others benefit the short term needs of the country. Consider donating to organizations with existing infrastructure and the ability to service these immediate needs first, then give to other efforts with longer term impact. Finally, please remember that the long term success of rebuilding will only be helped by your continued business with Nepal. So, to begin again as it were, an uncredited quote from our friends at floordesign in San Francisco via facebook…