The Choki Traditional Arts School (CTAS) is a private school that provides free skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to attend or complete their formal education.
Bordered by Tibet in the north and by India in the south, Bhutan is a small Himalayan kingdom which is not only landlocked but also has one of the most formidable mountainous terrains in the world.
Here an ancient branch of Buddhism made its last stand and with it a strange and mystical art form revealing a cosmos of Hindu-based demons and deities metamorphosed by sorcery and other native beliefs. Today Bhutan offers up a unique, highly imaginative artistry that has survived unchanged through the centuries.
Until recently, this artistic heritage has passed smoothly from one generation to the next, from father to son, from mother to daughter. Modern technology, however, and other foreign influences threaten these millennia-old traditions. Young people no longer learn the skills from their parents.
By Bhutanese law, art is essential to the kingdom's national identity as well as to its economy.
Artists and craftsmen find ready employment, providing not only the elaborate ornamentation required on all public buildings but also in restoring religious murals and other iconography of Bhutan's monasteries, temples, fortresses and other ancient landmarks.
The Choki Traditional Art School (CTAS) was established in April 1999 in commemoration of His Majesty's silver jubilee. The school was set up as a private initiative to support the less fortunate youth and to assist the Government to meet its goals: to preserve the culture and tradition of the country and to provide opportunities for gainful employment to the youth.
Today, the school is well run by the seven-member Choki family and a faculty of eight.
Until now its operations have been financed by the family and the school's Handicraft Shop, where students sell their arts and crafts. In addition in 2003, third-year students bid on and won a Government contract to paint and decorate a new government building in Bumthang with the proceeds returning to the school.
By the end of 2005, the students of CTAS had painted 13 buildings, 3 of which were government jobs won by competitive bidding.
In 2002, the Himalayan Youth Foundation donated funds for a large toilet and shower facility. In 2003, thanks to a very generous donation, HYF was able to guarantee the construction of a 120-bed dormitory completed in May 2005.
With the aim to ease the girls' access to the school, in December 2007 CTAS has received a private donation of 95.000US$ for the construction of the girl' dorm and the kitchen-dining room-common space (the construction started in January 2008).
To finish conditioning the school, there are still several things to acquire like computers, furniture, a vehicle, musical instruments...
Mountaineers for the Himalayas Foundation participates in this project with the sponsorship of students and the acquisition of a 4WD vehicle.
Currently 81 boys and 20 girls are enrolled in a six-year program during which they learn how to paint, carve wood, make sculptures, weave or embroider. In addition, the students learn English and math and
During a visit to