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Tales From The Hands Of Tibetan Weavers



If a picture paints a thousand words, a Tibetan carpet certainly tells a thousand tales.

Each carpet is hand knotted from wool by refugees from Tibet living in India and Nepal. Their carpet-making skills are a legacy of more than 100,000 refugees who fled Tibet in 1959 to live in exile after the Chinese invasion of their country. Many carpets were carried out of Tibet on the backs of refugees and so not only do the traditional methods of knotting and cutting the carpets remain today, but so too, do many of the traditional designs.

The cause of Tibet holds a special place in the Trade Aid history. Tibetan carpets were the

first products sold in New Zealand by Vi and Richard Cottrell, the founders of the organisation in 1971. Every year since, Trade Aid has sold the carpets to support two groups of Tibetan refugees who depend on income from making the carpets to support themselves. A medium sized carpet provides work for one weaver for a month, and an income sufficient to support the family, says Mrs Cottrell.

Tales from Tibet - The Enchanting Story of Tibetan Carpets is an exhibition to be held at the Cleveland Living Arts Centre from August 18 until August 29. The exhibition showcases more than 50 traditionally crafted carpets of varying sizes and designs.

Traditional carpet making not only provides a much needed source of income, it keeps Tibetan culture alive. The carpet makers weave the stories of their religious beliefs and mythology into the carpets through symbols such as dragons, phoenixes, snow lions, magic pearls and the snowy peaks of the Himalayan mountains. Carpets have been commonly used in Tibet as bedding, wall hangings, saddle cloths, mats for religious purposes and on seats for more than 900 years, and those in the exhibition and sale vary in size from chair mats to large floor rugs.

Trade Aid buys the carpets directly from the weavers’ cooperatives, ensuring the weavers can earn a fair wage to support their family and, at the same time, preserving the weavers’ traditional skills. This fair trade practice ensures that the weavers are treated fairly and that no child labour is involved.

“As a fair trade organisation, Trade Aid guarantees its carpets are bought from groups that reward the weavers fairly and provide good working conditions,” says Mrs Cottrell.


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