Daily Archives: March 11, 2023

What am I doing in Nepal?

I spent Tuesday in Birtamod working on the new Samunnat wholesale websites. It was Holi and we had a holiday. I had a head cold which I was relieved was just a head cold and a quiet day was a good idea. It was punctuated by turmeric tea, hot honey and lemon and spicy snacks…including an amazing thing where orange slices were served in a syrup of oil, fenugreek seeds, chili and panch poran. OMG…amazing! But I digress.

Doing this website stuff is SO out of my comfort zone but needs must so here I am. It’s the flip (and much less fun) side of spending my day with the women as we create!!! Here at Samunnat, one of our goals for the past few years has been to empower the polymer artists to develop their own voice. It’s a sign of the maturity of the group I think that they are moving beyond just making what sells (which is still vital since sales of the jewellery funds their wages and 90% of the program!) and wanting to develop an identifiable Samunnat Nepal voice. You can read a bit about that here.

I don’t do what I do at Samunnat so women can express their individual creativity or connect with their inner artist. I do that when I teach back home in Australia! Fort the past 16 years, my aim is to equip the women with skills that will help them to earn money. Why? Because that’s what the Board of Samunnat Nepal want. That’s what they asked me to do. That’s the bottom line. They want to empower these women to escape violent situations and be able to independently feed their kids, pay their medical and educational expenses, possibly buy somewhere to live. Maybe even support their ageing parents. Making the polymer jewellery is just one of many income generation activities that Samunnat Nepal trains women to participate in to empower them to leave violent situations.

Expressing themselves creatively, having an artistic voice, is a luxury item here. And sometimes I wonder if individual artistic expression is a more Western concept.  I try to avoid imposing western concepts. The women here seem more excited by coming up with ideas together than claiming individual ownership of an idea or design. So often I excitedly carry on like a pork chop about something and say This is wonderful! Whose idea was this? and am greeted with huge smiles and, We all did Didi! We thought it together! And they are thrilled!

The other thing that seems more exciting and gratifying to the women is celebrating traditions and creating work that has Nepali roots. They love coming up with cane designs, bead designs, jewellery designs that have Nepali inspiration. We pore over photos or actual pieces of indigenous Nepal jewellery and think about how this could be adapted. They bring in ideas from their gardens, their fabrics, their mehendi designs. Some of the very first beads we sold were based on henna designs. Our latest dhaka range has bought great joy as the colours and designs come from Nepal’s beloved dhaka fabrics! Everything is collaborative and new women are welcomed and patiently trained by more experienced artists. Skills and ideas are recognised and initiative is encouraged. Our lessons with Kathleen Dustin and Christine Dumont have really empowered the women. Just before Kathleen returned home this week, we decided to get serious again about our design days (Khelne Din) which we once had regularly but kind of forgot! They’ve announced that the last day of every month will be a day to work on new designs, to explore ideas, to experiment and….play which is what khelne means!

I guess this post could have gone on the Samunnat blog and one day it might but for now, for you my dear lovely readers, that’s how it is! Mwah until next time.