Weaving has been a significant part of Tibetan craft and culture for generations. Traditional weaving was predominantly outdoors, as seen in the above photo taken in the 1930s in Tibet.
In 1959 over 100,000 Tibetan refugees arrived in Northern India as a consequence of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. After arriving in exile the Tibetans were given challenging physical jobs building roads high up in the mountains. This was dangerous work that resulted in many deaths.
In the early 1960s the Dalai Lama had a vision to establish a network of co-operatives. This supported the newly arrived Tibetan refugees by giving them an alternate place to work while preserving traditional Tibetan craft and culture.
The co-operatives provide income to the weavers, free accommodation to the weavers and their families, contribute money to the education of the weavers children and provides free accommodation and a pension to retired weavers who worked for over 20 years at the co-operative. Profits are distributed to all the workers of the co-operative.
The above image, taken in 1972, shows the community of weavers and their families in one of the first co-operatives. This particular co-operative was established in 1963. Many of these individuals worked at the co-operatives throughout their life, with a few still working and living there today.
The weaving spaces have evolved from the 1960's though still remains an integral part of telling the Tibetan story and preserving the knowledge and culture of the Tibetan people