Rabindra Puri, known for his Namuna Ghar (‘Model House’), an old Newar residence he restored to blend ancient architecture with modern amenities, has carried out around a dozen restoration work in and around Bhaktapur. “My heart wept when beautiful old houses were pulled down mercilessly and took an ugly concrete shape,” says Puri, trained in sculpture in Germany.
During the initial years, Puri, who quit his job with the German Technical Cooperation in the early 90s, faced numerous hurdles.
In late 2014 Puri, with the help of a German organisation Schulen fuer Nepal, started Nepal Vocational Academy in Panauti with the aim to transfer traditional knowledge to the new generation. “I feel glad I started this because the 2015 earthquake damaged a lot of cultural heritage in the country and at that point, we needed even more artisans,” says Puri.
The first batch consisted of 20-25 young boys from Panauti who were interested in traditional art–women are traditionally not involved in woodcarving. But according to Mrigendra Pradhan, Vice Principal of the academy they faced problems as the boys weren’t serious about their training.
“They thought they were coming here to pass the time. We were offering skill training but many didn’t think so and dropped out. That is why now we interview candidates before enrolling them into the academy,” shares Pradhan.