Smithery, leatherworks and woodturning facing decline in interest among Zorig Chusum students

If the number of students taking up silver and black smithery, woodturning and leatherwork at the Zorig Chusum institutes is anything to go by, these arts and crafts could slowly disappear from the country’s cultural landscape. Due to their low appeal amongst students, the National Institute for Zorig Chusum sees them as “dying arts”. According to the institute, only a handful of students take silversmithery whereas woodturning, blacksmithery and leatherwork are no longer taught at the institute.

As of now, courses such as painting, tailoring, embroidery, woodcarving, silversmithery, sculpting, and weaving are taught at the institute.

However, courses such as slate carving did not have any enrollment for a decade according to the institute. Though the craft is not very popular among students, there is still demand for carved slates in the market.

Slate carvings are often seen in stupas and lhakhang. To meet the demand in the market, the institute has now integrated slate carving into the woodcarving course.

Meanwhile, the craft of carving emblems on Patang or swords called Chazho was discontinued due to a lack of students.

“In the past, we had woodturning, blacksmithery and leatherwork. We provide training according to the student’s interests, but most of the students are not interested in these arts, so we are not able to provide these courses anymore. Here, most of the students are interested in painting, tailoring, and wood carving,” said Pema Dorji, a senior painting teacher at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum.

“From the courses taught here, most of the students are interested in wood carving. This is because once a student learns it; they can easily find jobs. The ministry and the government are supporting us as far as possible. Even the certificates provided after graduation are certified nationally,” said Dorji Khandu, a senior wood carving teacher at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum (DZO)

The teachers added that compared to the past, the number of class 10 and 12 graduates seeking admission to the institute has declined over the last few years. There are currently about 100 students at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum.

They say that the loss of interest in traditional arts and crafts could be due to better market opportunities in other vocational training institutes and overseas employment opportunities.

Pema Dorji added, “The courses that were there in the past are no longer present because our courses depend on the market demand for these crafts. Since there is not much demand in the market, students are also not interested in these courses. There should be a public demand, which will eventually create a market with profit.”

At the Trashi Yangtse College of Zorig Chusum, though woodturning is being taught, only around six students are learning the craft at present.

Out of the eight courses taught at the college, woodturning is the least preferred course.

However, efforts are made by the Desuung Skilling Programme to preserve these arts and crafts.

The programme offers training in tailoring and embroidery, sword and blade craft, stone carving, traditional woodworks, metal smith, Troezo and bronze casting.

So far, more than 400 students have been trained in the arts and crafts through the DeSuung Skilling Programme.

Singye Dema

Edited by Kipchu

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