Bhaktapur is famous for its yoghurt. Popularly known as Juju Dhau or King of Yoghurt, it is said that the title was won in competition with the other cities of the Valley. With a history spanning at least three centuries, the fermented delicacy is an essential cultural heritage of the Bhadgaon, the ancient capital of Nepal Mandala.
Today, Juju Dhau is a big economy but instead of sustaining the many artisanal and maker communities previously involved, it is a mere copy of the rich and rooted tradition that has been synonymous with Bhaktapur’s livelihood. Besides this, another outcome of the changes to the supply chain includes the shifting to foreign materials like plastic which has contributed to local land and water pollution. What essentially is happening is an erosion of cultural roots of a practice that is now threatening its own future by veering away from its own geographical indicator.
Being from Bhaktapur, I wanted to apply my professional skills as a designer and my duties to my community to address these issues. Together with collaborators and support from the Innovation Grant Programme we started Dhau to do this. Dhau essentially strips away with the more superlative label to signify a humbler, more conscious approach to preserving the cultural output.
Rather than a brand, Dhau is envisioned as a system that brings Bhaktapur’s pride to consumers in Kathmandu Valley (and hopefully beyond) through a more sustainable and ethical process where the community is at the centre. The focus on the supply chain was important to our model as this allows us to channel our expertise and support to those active in the production of Dhau, therefore trickling all benefits of our intervention to existing suppliers.
Dhau seeks to assess the material culture within the practice with an aim to rejuvenate it without compromising function. With design at the centre of our intervention, we are interested in the effectiveness of cultural or creative interventions to inspire larger supply chain changes. We believe that instead of changing traditional practices there is a way to adapt them for modern consumption. This would require bridging the gap that exists between the practice and the consumer. Our intervention, therefore, has started with designing something that is more aligned with consumer concerns, that is able to retain the supply chain of the original practice. This way both demand and supply sides are influenced towards a more community-driven, nature-based solution for an economic output that has can bring much more to the city of Bhaktapur and its heritage.