Bead Buzz: Nepalese Women Rebuild Their Village with Jewelry Making, One Bead at a Time
Sometimes hope and beauty spring from the most unlikely circumstances. In April 2015, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake triggered an avalanche of rock, ice, and snow, killing a third of Langtang residents and destroying most of their homes. Before the earthquake, the tiny mountain village in northern Nepal enjoyed a steady flow of adventurous tourists trekking through the peaceful valley studded with grazing yaks and stone and wood teahouses.
ABOVE: The women of Langtang Designs, enjoying their time together creating jewelry. Photo courtesy of Elsa Häberle.
During the rebuilding efforts, Elsa Häberle heard several women express an interest in learning jewelry making. She offered to set up some informal training near a camp filled with temporary shelters. To her surprise, about forty women showed up.
Elsa observed, “Using their hands to make jewelry and focusing on detailed tasks seemed to be therapeutic for the women who lost close family members and loved ones. The women also enjoyed having a reason to meet with each other and spend time working together, laughing as they learned jewelry making and created beautiful things.”
After the training, Elsa launched Langtang Designs to provide an income for the women. Currently about a dozen women create the jewelry, with priority given to those without other financial support. The necklaces and earrings feature turquoise, coral, lapis, and other gemstones associated with the women’s Tibetan heritage. The group names each piece after a special woman such as an aunt, sister, friend, or group member. The Gyalmu necklace, for example, was named after the designer, whereas Nima honors the woman skilled at making this necklace.
The finished jewelry is sold in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and to wholesale buyers around the world. The group hopes to open a shop in the village and to provide consistent work for the women. More than two years after the earthquake, tourism has not returned to its previous high levels, but life—and the beading—goes on.
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