Forgive my ignorance but I have never heard of any Bhutanese Mask Collector, or for that matter any sort of collector. We consider that as the prerogative of foreigners. I have rather heard of Bhutanese smugglers who buy antique mask to be sold in black market across the border, never to be seen by any Bhutanese ever. I have also heard of foreigners who collect mask, antiques and ingenious art pieces and fly them away from Bhutan. Many of us are more than happy to see our priceless art pieces fly away overseas.
Believe it or not, there is a Bhutanese who is doing his share of collection. He won't let us sell all our arts to the foreigners. His name is Kelden Jigme Namgay (Call him KJ). You won't believe he is just a two year old if you see his mask collection. This afternoon I went to meet him and with the approval of his parents and grandmother took pictures of him and his collection.
|KJ with his collection|
He is not only the youngest mask collector but also perhaps the only collector in Bhutan. He is just an ordinary little boy who is born among the kids who love wearing Spiderman and Batman mask but quite strangely KJ started asking for scary Bhutanese masks ever since he could demand for toys. Sometimes he would ask for a specific mask and his parents have to scan all the handicraft shops. His collection is built mask by mask, from Paro, Thimphu and Bumthang. He knows the masks by their names and can even locate where each of them are bought from.
|The Collector. Photo Source: His Parent's Collection|
It was this summer that his parents could finally make him happy after finding the last missing piece in his collection: The Dudhar Mask, the white mask worn in the dance of death. They couldn't find it in any of the handicraft shops. It was finally found in Paro Airport handicraft shop. He almost rescued it.
|The Last Mask: Photo Source: His Parent's Collection|
It's hard to say if KJ was born with that interest or he acquired it later but one thing that we must acknowledge is the way people around him nurtured his unique passion. Children of his age are after Ben10, Chota Bhim, Spierman, etc but remember no child is born with love for cartoon films, it's the lazy parents who let such movies babysit their children and overtime they tend to like it. We force children to like cartoon movies but KJ's parents and grandma didn't let that happen. They let him be different.
KJ lives with his parents and Grandma in Punakha.
Enjoy his collection: