Still holding the ground – Thetan Wangyal

Mountain Homestays had its first Apricot trail in August 2016 which took us to village Tsogsty. The village surprised us with it’s lush green apple and apricot farms but our discovery was this 65 year old copper artisan named Thetan Wangyal, one of the last few metal artisans left in Ladakh.

Copper metalworking is an ancient art of Ladakh but now left to only a few villages here. The art is fading away as it does not attract the younger generation anymore, but few artisans like Thetan are still holding the ground trying to preserve this precious heritage. He talked with us about the challenges he is facing to work on metals and about encouraging younger people to embrace this artwork.

Wangyal has been practicing copper art since he was 25. He has a very small workshop where he sits on a small cushion surrounded by all sorts of tools he uses for his work. There is a small coal fire and a blower to melt and shape the copper sheets. He also uses silver and zinc in his work. 
Tsogsty village does not have electricity as of now. Thetan mentioned how a clean energy source like solar power can ease his work and also encourage the youth to stay in the village and embrace this art.

Thetan is one talented and hard working person. Apart from copper work which Thetan usually does in winters, in summers you will find him making wooden crafts, like the bows and arrows for the Ladakh archers, or the grain shovels for the farmers.

He also has a farm to take care in summers from where he collects various fruits, vegetables and seeds to process and sell in market. He served us a delicious apricot jam which he himself made from fresh apricots.

We were overwhelmed by his really friendly nature and his hard work. We requested him to make a wooden bow for us as a souvenir. He did not waste a minute made it for us in less than two hours.

Mountain Homestays is committed to help artisans like Wangyal, understand the challenges they are facing and help conserve the ancient art of metalworks in Ladakh.

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