In this special photo essay, GEI Program Officer Mengyao LI shares more pictures and stories from the Handicraft Training currently happening in GEI’s Sanjiangyuan project.As the local herdsmen continue to work with the professional designers, the bags, jewelry and lights are becoming truly exquisite – they blend the traditional Tibetan and modern styles so well. This handicraft cooperative is a special element of community development because sales of the products benefit the village but it also gives the locals employment and teaches them new skills.
GEI's Mengyao LI is currently in Sanjiangyuan! Here is her report from the trip!
Today's training familiarized me with everyone and helped me get to know their stories. Today I want to share with you more about the craftspeople of Qinghai.
1. A daughter’s smile is a great inspiration – Caibao’s Story
As soon as he arrived at the training center, Caibao started making a new handbag. He said that he got a new idea last night and was eager to make an even more beautiful bag!
Caibao is one of the best tailors in the handicraft cooperative. However, without a pair of glasses that fit him, the 54-year-old man often cannot find the needle eye when sewing – this troubles him a lot. Although there are no glasses stores in the community, we’re now trying to get right lenses for him.
Oh, by the way, maybe you remember Suo Nan Zhuoma, the girl who returned to Tibet to study medicine? Well, Caibo is her father! When he talks about his daughter, he wells up with pride and he puts, even, more energy and spirit in his works.
Qin Yan, a designer who came back to China from France, often offers suggestions to Caibao. For this bag, they finally decided to use a special Tibetan button as the clasp. Doesn’t the blue button really make the bag unique?
Look at this beautiful bag that Caibao made especially for GEI.
2. Bright lights with traditional flair – Dong Zhong’s Story
Inspired by the knitting styles of traditional to the region, like yak wool spinning, the designers used yak wool to make lamps and lanterns, that beautifully mix the traditional Tibetan and modern style. Here are some pictures of semi-finished products - just imagine what they will look like when finished!
Under the designer’s direction, Dong Zhong attempted to put her creative ideas into her lamp design using the yak-wool thread she had spun.
The college graduate Yexi Sanghua (left) and Dong Zhong’s son Banma Yangzhong (right), who volunteered to translate for us, helped Dong Zhong knit the very intricate decorations for the lamp. Yexi, who has a major in logistics management, worked as an intern in Xining for a year after graduation until he heeded his parent’s call to return to Sanjiangyuan after not finding a permanent job. Yexi told us that logistics in Guoluo were very backward and he struggled to apply what he had learned.
3. Delicious Meal & Warm Hospitality: Jiahua Sangwu & Zhaxi Jie’s Story
Jiahua Sangwu and his wife invited us to their house for a traditional Qinghai style lunch of the traditional food. We were so happy for their friendship and hospitality after a long day in the cold!
Zhaxi Jie, the hostess and a craftswoman in the community, prepared Mianpian soup and Zanba (traditional Tibetan food made of flour). Both of their children went to school in the prefecture, and the family made money by selling things, as they do not have their own pasture or yak.
4. E'erduo earrings
Realizing that the designer Qin Yan liked e’erduo (a kind of catapult), Zhaxi Jie helped her make a small e’erdo. In fact, Qin Yan designed an earring with an E’erduo design, and she worked with Zhaxi Jie to bring the design to life.
5. An Unexpected Friend
A particularly exciting thing happened when a pigeon flew into the studio! The herdsmen of Qinghai traditionally revere natural life and live in peaceful harmony with nature. Worried that the poor bird would hurt itself, Anai Ga, a craftsman, cautiously grabbed it and released it out the window. The herdsmen, especially Banma Yangzhong, were so happy.
After several days of trials and errors, the craftspeople and the designers are finally prepared to show the products of their hard work! Everybody is so excited and looking forward to the exhibition!
If you’re interested in purchasing any of the handicrafts, please contact Program Officer, Mengyao LI: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About our Sanjiangyuan Project
In 2013, GEI launched the “Ecosystem-service economy” program which conducts community-driven ecological protection in the Sanjiangyuan region (the origin of Yellow River, Yangtze River and Lancang River). Over the past four years, through the cooperation with the local farmers and herdsmen as well as the local government, GEI has successfully established a mechanism to protect the local ecosystem and develop the local community. In addition to establishing a community protection area reaching 20,000 hectares, we have trained over 2,000 farmers and herdsmen in more than 10 communities (including Longge Village at Guoluo Prefecture, Maozhuang Town and Ganda Village at Yushu Prefecture) to conduct ecological protection, garbage collection, surface water quality monitoring. Moreover, we have worked with our partners to establish a “sustainable development plan” for the local community, inviting experts to provide skill trainings for over 300 herdsmen in handicraft production, ecological tourism and ecosystem services market. These efforts have raised over 200,000 RMB in community funds to support the sustainable and coordinated development of environmental protection and economy. We hope this work will ultimately benefit local herdsmen and protect the ecological security of Sanjiangyuan.