A Common Thread

WORDS AND Photographs by Kin Coedel

Photographer Kin Coedel spends time with the local communities of the Tibetan plateau dedicated to conserving sustainable, age-old textile-making practices.

འབྲེལ་ཐག

DYAL THAK in Tibetan means mutual ties, connection or “a common thread.” This series was created in 2021 on the Tibetan plateau and in the surrounding Tibetan Autonomous Regions.

 

The plateau, which some call “The Roof of the World,” is far-reaching; for centuries, many different tribes of Tibetan nomads have lived off the animals which inhabit it. Before the 1960’s, its inhabitants lived a simple life, one that was aligned and balanced with the cycle of nature. Yet, economic and social changes brought about by the cultural revolution, policies and development have eroded this sustainable way of life. A new market-driven economy created new demands beyond what farming and cattle-raising could fulfill, and so the traditional way of living started to become hopeless for many Tibetans. As a result, a bridge had to be built to connect them to the modern economy.

 

Given the unique revolutionary history and geographic location, Tibet is a region, despite its rich resources and vast nature, essentially isolated from other countries. During the pandemic, when many parts of the world were feeling despondent, arriving in Tibet was a breath of fresh air. Standing 3,200 meters above sea level, it was seemingly untouched by the chaos of contemporary life: picturesque landscapes, free-roaming animals, and beautiful Buddhist temples. The communities were optimistic and harmonious, and the modest way of living was—compared to the world-at-large—more promising and hopeful.

 

Many of these images were taken in the village of Ritoma, a tight-knit community of primarily craftswomen. Many of them are generational weavers, yarn-spinners, wool-felters, and have, since the 1990’s, used what Mother Nature had to offer them—yak khullu—to build a village-based industry. Now, Tibetans are striving for equal opportunity to Han Chinese, while preserving local yak wool textile-making practices, conserving the respectful way of living with the land, and building a sustainable future for generations to come.

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