Bhutanese woodwork skills – broadly categorised as Patra (carving), Shagzo (wood turning) and Babzo (mask making) – have existed for centuries. The art has been passed down from master to student, from parents to children.
Shagzo involves producing exquisite functional items such as bowls (dapa), cups (dza phob) and household containers of unique shapes and colour. Made from special wood burls and roots, some of these wooden articles are even preserved as family heirlooms.
Babzo is as much a spiritual affair as it is an art. Mask dances are numerous and therefore the masks made range from the fearsome male and female protective deities, saints and legendary personages to mythological animals. The mask dances are often a spiritual exercise helping human beings to acquire spiritual merit for eventual liberation from the worldly suffering.
Patra is usually done on woods. Beautifully cared pillar and beams, handle of knife, traditional musical instruments are some examples of woodcarving besides the many traditional motifs that are engraved on the Bhutanese houses and on Dzongs.
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