Handicrafts business goes tourism way

Rup Narayan Dhakal

Pokhara, May 20:

With the fall of tourism sector in the districts, handicraft business has also spiralled down.

Mangal Bahadur Poudel, 77, complained that times are so bad that they have to keep handicraft items stored in cupboards. He has been continuously working towards conservation of culture through handicrafts since BS 2038 and has been involved their production and sales.

He makes traditional Nepali houses, oxen readied for tilling lands, traditional wine shops, birds, etc, from timber and bamboo not used for any other purpose. He has also made his own bust and different sexual postures. He said that Japanese and Americans buy his models who keep coming back for more.

Poudel, also the manager of Mangal Bamboo Craft, said that business has gone down over the last three years. His income from the business earlier was enough to sustain his family of seven, but now the situation has altered drastically.

He said, "Nepalis prefer foreign goods to indigenous ones and government is also on the wrong side of promoting us. With this apathy from both sides, it is hard for us to sustain." He remembered that during the exhibition held to mark the golden jubilee of the Pokhara Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the sale of his handicrafts was less than Rs 1,000. He stressed the need for a handicraft gallery to promote the art so that tourists would get the outline of what it takes to make these art forms.

Krishna Chettri, another craftsman, complained that though prizes are distributed during the handicrafts exhibitions held from time to time, they are not given for quality or for their role in the art sector but for the quantity of sale during the exhibition.

Poudel has made many forms and their costs vary from Rs 50 to 1,000. "If necessary, I can make sets worth Rs 50,000. A piece reflecting plantation consisting of oxen, labourers and other materials costs that much."

He said that there has been an increase in foreign goods with different designs made from plastics and clay. Even busts of Lord Ganesh comes from Khasa. "But I make things out of wood, bamboo and roots. This art form is slowly disappearing. The condition of other entrepreneurs is no different," he said.