Mongolian Leather Project
The Mongolian Leather Project began with a horse trek through the Darhat Valley in northern Mongolia in 2008. We traveled over 200 miles on horseback and felt an enormous connection with the land, the culture and the people. One of our connections was with our guide, Badmaa Dovchin, a 28 year old Mongolian woman who was raised as a nomad but was highly educated and fluent in English. Together we also visited the Eagle Hunters in Western Mongolia, who hunt with Eagles while riding on horseback.
Our most profound visit was to the Tsaatan People (The Reindeer People), who wander the mountains near the Russian border while herding their reindeer and living in tipis. During this visit we had the opportunity to work with the Reindeer People who were very interested in the tools we had brought to share. This was the beginning of our Mongolian Leather Project.
The next year we returned for another month. This time we brought 100 pounds of leather working tools and 150 pounds of medical supplies. With Badmaa as our partner, we set up 3 different leather coops where people could work - making and fixing their tack and doing other work they could sell or trade. The first project was in Ulaanbatar, the capital city. There lived many displace nomads with no means of livelihood. Badmaa had identified 20 artistic people and we ran a week long workshop.
The second coop was established in Renchinlumbe, a small town of about 200 people in the Darhat Valley of Northern Mongolia. There we were given a small workshop and trained 12 more people, again leaving a full collection of tools to share. Finally, we worked with a nomadic group about 30 miles outside of Renchinlumbe. 26 families made up this group, and it was a joy to live with them and help them create some wonderful leather projects. The head of these nomads kept the tools for all the people to use.
This was all made possible by our wonderful connection with Badmaa. Her command of language and her cheery disposition, as well as her commitment to helping her people maintain their culture and life style, was a joy and inspiration.