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Woven in Exile Their Story

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Using traditional backstrap looms, Bhutanese refugee weavers in the Akron, Ohio area are creating beautiful handwoven bags and other items which are featured on this website. 

Their creations, which interlace strands of thread to create fabric and design, are a metaphor for how their lives are being brought together in a new culture. 

Like the fabric they create, their lives continue to be "Woven in Exile." 

 

Chandra weaving on a backstrap loom
 

The vision for Woven in Exile is to create a cottage industry in which Bhutanese refugees can create and market quality handwoven items using backstrap looms to generate supplemental income for their families. 
 
These weavers and their families were forced off their farms and out of their homes when the Bhutan monarchy exiled more than 100,000 Bhutan citizens of Nepali ancestry.  More than 18 years of their precious lives were wasted in refugee camps in Nepal while the governments of Bhutan and Nepal refused to take responsibility for the injustice inflicted upon them.

They felt frightened, neglected, and abandoned to suffer by the rest of the world -- left to live in bamboo huts without running water or electricity. 

 

Only when the United Nations worked out arrangements for some of them to resettle in other countries has their hope been rekindled for better lives for themselves and their children. 

Textiles were a central part of the culture and had a function as clothing, social identity, monetary exchange, religious practice, and art.  Acquiring weavings was a traditional way to amass wealth.   

 

The poem, "The Day I Ran," was printed in a Nepalese newspaper sometime around 1991.  While the poet is unknown, he or she expressed the pathos and anguish experienced by those who were forced out of Bhutan. 

The Day I Ran

 

It was sudden, like lightning in the sky.

The sky changed, the sun was like a moon.

The day became dark under the sun.

Water tasted bitter as if mixed with ash.

Forest became desert, nowhere to hide.

Man was wild like a monster.

Mother forgot children, scattered like the ice of rain.

Wombs burst due to the fear of the firing.

Roads became narrow, like a cotton thread.

Tears flew, like the waters of the Nile.

The world changed as if it was the end…..........

 

   

The following links amplify the story of these refugee weavers:

(When viewing a link, use your browser's BACK button to return to this page.)

This article describes what life was like in a refugee camp.

http://www1.sewausa.org/life-refugee-camp

 

copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/10qpWG1

 

 

This video describes the aftermath of the March 1, 2008 fire in the Goldhap refugee camp, the life and hopes of refugees, and the issue of resettlement. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzaKeiJfKGs

Here is a movie made by one of the refugees who now lives in New York City.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNYIGf2sUQQ

Perhaps this first-person account says it best.

http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=339208