Life around Norlha

Winter is the wedding season. It is the time of year when the animals stay near the nomad’s winter settlements, feeding on oats or the little grass left on the pasture. There is more leisure then, especially during the new year, when families get together, eat and entertain friends. For those who work or live in cities,

In traditional Tibet, a marriage is more a business arrangement between two families than the result of two people loving each other and forming a partnership. There are several possible arrangements in a marriage: the bride leaving her family to join her husband’s, or the groom integrating into his wife’s household and taking her name. In either case, a bride or groom price is negotiated between the two families, benefitting those whose son or daughter has left. There is also the case, increasingly frequent in more urban areas, of the newly married couple starting their own family independent of both.

The following photos are of a traditional village wedding where the girl, or nama, joins her husband’s household. She is formally escorted by her relatives to her husband’s house where the marriage takes place. The only note is that this was not a real marriage but an enacted one, something nomads like to do during the New Year, for fun and as a pretext to get together, eat, sing and dance.

The Norlha Atelier stands at the entrance of Ritoma village, after the basketball court and before the spread of winter houses and the sprawling monastery that marks its limit. Most people who work at Norlha are from the main village or the hamlets that radiate from it across the pasture. All have started out as nomads and most still have family members who herd for a living. Things are changing. There is now life in the village in summer, around those who live there all year around, and much of that life radiates around the workshop; stores that cater to its employees, a few restaurants, children who come there after school waiting for their parents to come home.

Animals are still very much a part of daily life and most keep a few sheep or horses they train for the races. It is a way of life in transition, but one that is still revolving around the village, bringing in new elements while retaining much of the familiar old ways, reaching a balance that will keep Ritoma’s inhabitants close to their roots, with new ways to weather the changes taking place all around them.

Glistening, cold, slippery, stark and pitiless, ice is an integral part of winter. Ice on the Plateau is never very far away; in late august, it transforms the dew into glittering particles that weigh down on the flowers until the sun shines in and releases them. By mid October, it is there to stay, and though the sun melts it away wherever it can reach, it remains entrenched on the northern faces on the hills, where it can’t.

Then the streams and lakes freeze over, trapping the last remnants of grass. The yak’s sure footing takes them onto the shimmering surface in search of moisture and children fill the air with shrieks of joy sliding over it on their makeshift sleds.

At the end of each year, Norlha weaves a special limited edition collection. It can be scarves, shawls or blankets. This year, we went a little crazy and created ‘Infinite Mix’, several pencil scarves sewn into one their colors mixing and merging, fringes popping from all sides…and the middle.

Woven from 100% Khullu, single or double sided, the concept was not only infinite in mix and color, but also in creativity…

Norlha is about the skill of artisans and precious raw materials. The men and women who spin, weave, felt, sew and knit were all nomads earlier in their lives, and most have relatives who still are. Only their work and lifestyle have changed and they dwell in the same environment and work alongside the people they grew up with.

Our spinners, weavers, knitters, tailors and felters were all trained at Norlha and have achieved the level of skill it took to create a presence for Norlha in the luxury market. As 2019 begins, we celebrate their talent and look forward to an exciting year of achievement, new developments and creativity.