The jewellery, handicrafts and textiles that Kashgar offers for sale are authentic handmade items. This means the pieces were originally made by and to be used by the people who made them, or were handmade for us using traditional methods of construction. Not every item that we sell is an antique. The majority of our items are between 40 and 140 years old, and many are new or were made within the last decade. Where ever possible, age and other provenance information is given in the notes accompanying an item.
A Bontoc tribal woman poses for a photograph on the rice terraces of Banuae. She wears a dog tooth necklace, a sun hat made of fronds and her arms are heavily tattooed to indicate her status within her tribe. The three boxes of matches she holds in her hands are payment for the photograph - she is otherwise forced to buy such luxuries in the local village and is charged an extortionate price for these basic necessities. Photo credit: Kashgar, January 2000.
As we enter the 21st Century planet Earth grows smaller, and communication channels open while physical borders close. Traditional ways of living are ending and many of the world's minority and ethnic cultures are unprepared for life in the new millennium. In accepting superior aspects of the modern world such as health, education advances and women's rights, tribal communities are often forced to accept the less desirable aspects, including the three worst: begging culture, prostitution and servitude to warlords. By maintaining traditional means of handicraft, jewellery and textile production and by selling directly to the western world via dealers like us, tribal communities, particularly the women who tend to be the customary custodians of family and tribal cultural tradition, are empowered both financially and psychologically, and can make informed decisions about which parts of the west they want to incorporate and which they want to reject. The other great benefit of maintaining traditional methods of handicraft and textile manufacture is that these communities have for the most part evolved to live in synchronicity and harmony with their environment. As a result, environmental sustainability and stability is maintained without the imposition of elaborate and expensive management plans by external authorities.
In line with this philosophy, there must be a simultaneous recognition by the west that handicrafts made in this manner will cost more, will not necessarily be made to fit western tastes and will be rarer than items mass produced in Asian factories and sweatshops. The beauty of these items lies in their individuality, their irregularities and their imperfections. When you hold them in your hands or gaze upon them in your home you are engaging in a form of time travel. The sense of peace, harmony and wellbeing that they bestow cannot easily be described. By supporting this philosophy we can all actively help to maintain the diversity of our planet and ensure that the unique nature of these communities and their traditions will endure into the next millennium.
A tribal shaman walks the streets of Darjeeling, offering his religious services as needed. He adheres to a blended philosophy of Chod and Buddhist practices. Photo credit: Kashgar 2002.
These are our products and this is our philosophy
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