The Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal (FHAN) held the 14th Handicraft Trade Fair from November 25-29, 2016, along with the 12th Craft Competition. It is an annual event to promote Nepali art and craft. As expected, there was enthusiastic participation from many artists, craftspeople, and institutions and organizations involved in the sector. The variety and diversity of Nepali handicraft on display was a sight for sore eyes, with craftwork ranging from metal, wood, and stone craft to textile, pashmina, and wool products, and many others like felt, lokta, , nettle, and leather items in-between.
No one can deny that Nepal is rich in its wealth of handicrafts. While the majority of fine artwork and craftsmanship come from the Newar craftspeople of the capital, Kathmandu, a significant number of craftwork also come from other ethnic communities around the country. For example, ceramics from Bhaktapur, Mithila paintings from Janakpur, metal items from the eastern hills, especially Bhojpur, which is famous for its khukuris, the famed weapon of the legendary Gurkhas, Dhaka textile from Palpa, woven baskets ofkaas and moonj (two types of grass) from Chitwan, lokta paper from the hilly regions, and so on.
Some big organizations based in the capital, such as Association of Craft Producers of Nepal (ACP), with its famous outlets called Dhukuti; Mahaguthi, Craft with Conscience; and Sana Hastakala, are at the forefront in supporting handicraft producers throughout the country, by providing training and developing both domestic and international markets for their creations. By doing so, these establishments claim rightly to be active in uplifting deprived and marginalized communities, and much of their focus is on encouraging women’s economic development. Additionally, they contribute a part of their earnings to social welfare work. All three have their primary showrooms in Kupondole of Lalitpur, and as expected, Christmas, the season for giving gifts, is their most busy time, when you can expect to find a great variety of new creations.
Of course, there are numerous other handicraft outlets all over Kathmandu, this being no surprise, as fitting souvenirs for the folks back home, and for that spot on the mantelpiece, or in the glass fronted cabinet, is what is on top of every tourist’s mind when the time to leave Nepal nears. And, because Nepali handicrafts are not only about variety, but also about the extremely high quality of craftsmanship combined with exoticism, souvenirs from Nepal are prized by all. The tourist hub, Thamel, probably has the most density of handicraft shops, some of which call themselves curio shops because of the intriguing nature of many of their products. For instance, paraphernalia worn and used by shamans, traditional milk pails used in the hills, numerous ethnic musical instruments, etc.
However, other areas like Durbar Marg, Lazimpat, Ason Bazaar, and so on also have quite a few fine souvenir shops. But, it must be said that the center of handicrafts is still the ‘City of the Arts’ that is, Patan, or Lalitpur, where Pulchowk, with its many leading handicraft outlets, is situated. The alleys of Patan are must-visit places for anyone looking for some genuinely artistic souvenirs. In fact, a bit of research beforehand will save you considerable time, and increase your chances to find something that will really satisfy your desire. This is because the city has specific sites specializing in certain types of handicraft work, and this is a natural result of most handicraft work being family affairs, with skills handed down through the generations. Some localities are such that all its inhabitants are likely to be involved in some craftwork or the other! The Patan Industrial Estate in Lagankhel is also where you’ll find plenty of good souvenirs, since most of the establishments there are handicraft producers.
So, knowing all this, have a rewarding souvenir hunt, and don’t be miserly, either in your efforts or in your large heartedness, because you can rest assured that Nepal’s exquisite handicrafts are such as to bring great joy to anyone.