Celebrating A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, and the unveiling of Phase IV of the RTA
May 13, 2023
Your Royal Highness Princess Eeuphelma;
Ladies and Gentlemen —
It is a great pleasure to be here at the Royal Textile Academy and in Bhutan again to celebrate its evolution.
Twenty years ago, Her Majesty had a vision to create a forum for the Textile Arts of Bhutan.
Twenty years sounds like a long time to many people – certainly we were all younger then; but a great deal has been accomplished over that period. The Royal Textile Academy is a product of that vision so it is altogether fitting that we are here today, in this place, on the occasion of Her Majesty’s’ birthday.
While the magnificent structures around you are the physical product of Her Majesty’s vision, the heart of the RTA is its people and its programs. Personally, I have been enchanted by Bhutan, its living arts and culture and its people for many years.
The design of the RTA campus was conceived by our architect, Mr. Doug Soe Lin, and Her Majesty, around the Parable of the Four Friends. Phase One, the museum, is our Bird; Phase Two, the education center, is our Rabbit; and Phase Three, the office building, is our Monkey. Phase Four, the Elephant, is conceived as a conference center for Bhutan. It is planned to be constructed in two phases. The first, as you see in the rendering behind me, would include structured parking as well as retail and office space. The second phase would be the conference center itself.
This conference center, when complete, will play many roles for Thimphu and the country of Bhutan. While providing sustaining income for the RTA, the conference center will have a profound economic and cultural impact on the country.
As I said earlier, Bhutan, its living arts and culture, but most importantly its people, are a treasure. The RTA through its programs supports and highlights this through important activities. The RTA has developed and implemented such an array of educational programs while preserving Bhutan’s rich history and culture.
It’s remarkable that in this 20-year time span, the RTA has built this impressive campus and developed and implemented such an array of important educational programs while preserving Bhutan’s rich history and culture.
The RTA has over the years welcomed over 8000 school children from both within Thimphu and other far regions from Eastern Bhutan to participate in a museum experience and to learn about their cultural heritage. Hundreds of students from New Delhi have also visited.
Annual textile exhibitions have been held in partnership with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, with private artists and with foreign countries such as Germany, the Czech Republic, India, the US and Switzerland.
The William Geiger Family Foundation funds acquisition programs and training, and supports material banks in the rural villages for the women weavers.
Conservation training and programs are also held at the RTA.
There is an annual National Design and Arts Competition funded by Allen and Patricia Bickel which provides a platform for weavers and artists of other traditional art forms such as painting, wood carving and sculptor works.
Weaving and natural dyeing programs have been organized not only in Thimphu but also in other rural areas. Over 100 school children participate in these programs each year.
The RTA has established a Design Resource Centre – a place for weavers, designers, and enthusiasts in graphic, fiber studies and textile and fashion design to learn and expand their knowledge and strengthen their skills. The RTA is working towards creating new opportunities for innovation and creativity in the textile sector.
The RTA recently published The Theory of Colour which brings a distinctive Bhutanese perspective to color theory principles. It will serve as a reference for future weavers and others interested in this textile heritage.
Under a partnership with the Smithsonian Institute and funding from the William Geiger Family Foundation, the RTA published three nationwide surveys on the textile industry in Bhutan.
It is indeed a great sense of accomplishment and a source of pride to know that the RTA is often called upon to consult or partner with our museum and textile-related projects in the country.
I personally am extremely proud of the long-term alliance between the academy and Ferring Pharmaceuticals, the company of which I am Chairman, and the role that Ferring has been able to play in helping to preserve the culture and history of Bhutan, through my work with Her Majesty and Ferring’s financial commitment to the RTA. Without Her Majesty’s vision, passion and unwavering commitment to making the Royal Textile Academy a reality, we would not be here today with our intent to complete this magnificent Academy.
As I said at the beginning, the conference center, when complete, will play many roles for Thimphu and the country of Bhutan while supporting the RTA’s many programs.
Economically, it will provide a recovery stimulus for the country post-covid. Its most notable impact is on the broader economy with a very positive effect on retailers, restaurants, hotels, and the transportation and service sector. It will attract high-value, low-impact visitors consistent with Bhutan’s tourist objectives.
Less direct but perhaps even more profound is the conference center’s ability to spread awareness of Bhutan’s unique living culture. People will visit who may not have come to Bhutan absent the conference center. They will then become Bhutan’s ambassadors as they return home and spread the word of this unique, enchanting land.
Locally the conference center will provide a gathering place for festivals, ceremonial occasions, meetings and events with ample parking and amenities on site.
Thus “the Elephant” completes Her Majesty’s vision of the RTA. When complete, Phase IV will help in sustaining the RTA, school and museum while embracing the living culture of Bhutan. It will be a showcase of the living arts that are part of everyday Bhutanese life that defines this majestic and enchanting land. To do all that while benefiting the broader community is a fitting role for our final phase.
I am pleased that you are all here this morning and hope you enjoy the exhibit.