Wednesday, November 18, 2015

VAST Yangtse

To be or not to be?

I guess an artist is the one who uses lies to tell the truth.
Welcome to Trashi Yangtse, where the people are naive, and the place is known for Khandums, Khenpos and Trilkus.

Apart from the tales of Chorten Kora, Gom Kora, black necked cranes at Bumdeling and Kholongchu Project, you will not hear much about Trashi Yangtse. How will you? People of this place didn't make a noise, when age old Thang Thong Gyalpo bridge was dismantled and some of its chains were used at Paro.

Yangtse happens to be one of the remotest places of Bhutan. There aren't many shops and only three restaurants serve you Momos. Two schools, Trashi Yangtse Lower Middle Secondary School and Baling Higher Secondary School, are situated near the town.

Visual Artist Studio of Trashi Yangtse happens to function with 60 students. The students are from PP to 10th standard. The fee per student to learn art is Nu. 500 per annum. The students are taught about contemporary art during the weekends.

Founder Jigme Dorji, who is a mathematics teacher from TYLMSS, has sacrificed a lot for his philosophy - 'art must spread'. The club came into existence from 2012, while he and his friend Chojey worked on it. They asked their bachelor friend to lend his living room and started teaching kids how to paint.

Today Vast Yangtse functions well with kids coming around and actively taking part. Kids can even make 70% on any of their paintings, if sold and it is very accessible for kids to paint in this club. However, art is not cheap. In whole of Bhutan we only have one shop in Phuentsholing which never runs out of supplies like canvases, colours,  brushes, etc.

Art by Karma Dorji
It wasn't easy for Jigme and his friend, Chojey Tshering.  When Jigme went to pursue his masters in India and Chojey got transferred, the club solely had to function upon directions given by Jigme during his vacations & through Facebook to his kids. Jigme is very proud of his kids who paint, he says that they are very responsible and are very hard working. (You don't have to spend time here to understand that, just gaze at their paintings. )

I was very much amused to see one of the students' works. His name is Karma Dhendup and is a 10th grade student. I won't advertise him, you just look at the pics and decide for yourself.

With no recreational centres in Yangtse, Vast Yangtse has been doing a great job. It has engaged kids into learning art and being creative.

In the beginning everybody told Jigme, that it won't work. Today even though they have financial crisis for not many paintings are being sold, they running out of money to pay rent and buy colours, canvases and brushes..... Jigme hasn't lost his hope. He has cancelled his transfer and wishes to pursue with his club here in Yangtse. And social work on this level always gets bitter for the ones who work, f├Żor they have to sacrifice a lot. Who doesn't want their kids to be educated in Thimphu, while they know that they can only enroll their kids at the age of 7 in schools? I don't know when Jigme will leave Yangtse for betterment of his future and his own family, but he is here now. I guess he gets scolded by his wife time and again. I just guess, for a man who works even on weekends, even girl friends, friends and family members get irritated. Add non paying social work to it- you know.

Jigme still aspires that his club will grow in future. He wants to introduce computers and a library in his club. But how far he can succeed only time will tell, I urge you to help him if possible. Just engage his kids to paint for you, be it local municipal banners or cards, be it local sign boards, etc., so that at least they can sustain. These days with deficit in funds they have resorted to traditional colours and home made canvases. 

Jigme says that there are kids who have never touched computers and kids dont have access to good books. I still remember one of the students from Baling HSS who studied engineering in India. That kid had no idea about how computers functioned and was pursuing Computer Science and Engineering. And within a year or two he had already learnt phising nd actually had email ids and passwords of some seven people.

Being born in a remote region should never decide a person's capability, potential and fate.

Yangtse is already in its initial phase of housing crisis. With Kholongchu project to kick off, I fear Jigme will have tough times meeting his ends to pay for club rent and utensils.

I wish him luck and I ask you all for your help. Buy their paintings. They are good. And why can't Youth Center be opened up here? Riku Sir, please could you look into this matter? I saw you guys coming up with youth centre in Bajo. Why not here?

Please share this article for we need to reach out to many people who can actually help.

And aren't we all stepping stones? If it hadn't been Azha Karma the founder of Vast ( Volunteer Artist Studio Thimphu) Vast Yangtse ( Visual Artist Studio Trashi Yangtse) might not have existed. Yes Jigme is a student of Karma. I hope tomorrow Jigme's students will spread art as he aspires to. What is a society without artists?

And isn't this story inspiring? Story of passion, talent, art, zeal and sacrifices.

Ps: I did want to visit eastern regions of Bhutan.  I even had sorted out my budget for it. But I had to come here in a very weird days. Still then, Yangtse hasn't failed to amuse me.

You know, you will only address youth being troublesome if they come up to you after sniffing some paint thinner with a dragger, but you will never support a cause which will keep them off the streets to get involved upon problematic stuff.

My apologises. Blogged from a cell phone so there will be many typos.


  1. Nice to know that in everyday life at least someone remain naive and kind persons! The idea with club is amazing!

  2. Yes, come to Bhutan, you will find many folks like him. We are driven more by passion than anything. :)

  3. Great initiative. It would be our pleasure to get a chance in indulging with these activities.

    1. Dear Blanky,
      should you want to get involved, please email me at