The Kingdom of Bhutan
In October and November I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit Bhutan just after it had opened following more than 2 ½ years of some of the severest lockdown restrictions.
My partner Dominic studies sustainability from the standpoint of business and government policy at London Business School. I have been exploring my passion for a sustainable world through art, with my work being celebrated by the Royal Academy in this year’s Summer Exhibition.
Bhutan is at the forefront of sustainability: the last King said that gross national happiness must take priority far ahead of material wealth.
What makes people happy?
We met Khenpo, a senior Buddhist monk, until recently director of the Bhutanese National Art Museum, and had a rich discussion with him about mindfulness, compassion and how this could not be just about individuals but had to relate to the whole environment.
Those Buddhist values are everywhere in Bhutan: it is an undisturbed Buddhist culture going back more than a thousand years.
You see Buddhist images and mantras appearing on rocks and trees; the whole country is sacred the monastic system provides social care for many boys from poor backgrounds who become monks.
Here are child monks making cakes carvings as ritual offerings but we didn’t see any opportunities for poor female children of this kind. There are few nuns in Bhutan. As in many traditional societies, we saw women doing the heavy work.
Bhutanese women with huge baskets of rhododendron leaves photographed by me as well as the photo below of women carrying heavy bags up the very steep stairs.