Heritage art of Arunachal community set for revival

Pushed to extinction by Chinese products, heritage art of Arunachal community set for revival

The handmade paper unit aims not only to revive the 'extinct art' but also regain the markets occupied by China in the past few decades

An ancient heritage art of handmade papers of the Monpa community in Arunachal Pradesh, which had disappeared in the past 100 years due to flooding of cheap Chinese papers, is set for revival with the inauguration of a papermaking unit at Tawang, a hills station sharing a border with China, recently.

The handmade paper unit was opened on Friday by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), which aims not only to revive the "extinct art" but also regain the markets occupied by China in the past few decades. 

Tawang is situated atop 6,000 feet.  

"The art of making Monpa handmade paper originated over 1000 years ago. Once produced in every household in Tawang, this handmade paper was a major source of livelihood for the locals. Monpas used to sell these papers to countries like Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Japan as no paper making industry existed in these countries at that time. However, the local industry gradually began declining and the indigenous handmade paper was taken over by inferior Chinese paper. The handmade paper industry almost disappeared in the last 100 years," said a statement issued by KVIC.

The unit was inaugurated by KVIC chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena and in the presence of local people and officials.

The fine-textured handmade paper, which is called Mon Shugu in the local dialect, is integral to the vibrant culture of the local tribes in Tawang.

"The paper has great historic and religious significance as it is used for writing Buddhist scriptures and hymns in monasteries. The Monpa handmade paper,l will be made from the bark of a local tree called Shugu Sheng, which has medicinal values too. Hence the availability of raw material will not be a problem," KVIC said.

An attempt for the revival of this handmade paper industry was made in 1994 but failed owing to geographical challenges. A team of scientists and officials of Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, Jaipur, a unit under KVIC was deputed at Tawang to set up the unit and training the locals.  

"Owing to its peculiarity, this handmade paper has high commercial value that can be harnessed to create local employment. By increasing the production of Monpa handmade paper, it can again be exported to other countries and regain the space occupied by China in the last few decades. This is a local product with great global potential," Saxena said.

Initially, the paper unit has engaged nine artisans who can produce 500 to 600 sheets of Monpa handmade paper per day. The artisans will be earning wages of Rs 400 per day. To begin with, 12 women and two men from local villages have been trained to make Monpa handmade paper, KVIC added.