Bhutan is located in the Himalayan Mountains near Nepal, India, and China. The country gained its independence in 1907 and established a kingdom. Bhutan is split into three ethnic groups: the Ngalops, the Sharchops, and the Lhotsampas. The Ngalops are the ethnic group that predominates in the government, and the Lhotsampas are the group made up of agrarian workers from Nepali origins. In the 1970s-80s the Nepali-Bhutanese Lhotsampas were seen as a threat to cultural and political order which lead to them being culturally, politically, and economically excluded. Starting in 1989 people were strictly forced to conform to the ways of the Ngalops, which lead to a revolt by the Nepali-Bhutanese where the government responded harshly. By 1992 the majority of Nepali-Bhutanese fled the country and the rest were forced to leave as an order from the King. People fled to refugee camps in Nepal and were later resettled in countries like the U.S.
When Tritha Subba was 9 years old, she was forced to flee from Bhutan to a refugee camp in Nepal with her parents. She spent twenty-two years in Nepal where she was taught English, met her husband, had children, and learned the Bhutanese art of weaving from a close friend. Tritha and her family moved to Worcester a little over three years ago. Here she continues weaving through the help of Refugee Artisans of Worcester (RAW), which helped her obtain a loom. She has even begun to teach her children how to weave. Tritha weaves beautiful scarves with vibrant colors and complex geometric patterns. Recently, with the help of RAW, she has been able to get cotton fiber imported from Nepal. This cotton is significantly thinner and more natural than the American counterpart allowing her to produce more colorful, elegant scarves which can be worn year round. Hand making the scarves on the loom can take weeks and even months, yet as she says, “Weaving connects me to my home.”
Written by Catherine Brennan ’20 & Samuel Appleton ‘20
Professor Luyster’s “Introduction to Visual Arts” Class