[Sort of off topic] So many Kamis... So few stores selling the real deal.

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by snowwolf, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. snowwolf

    snowwolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 11, 2013
    I don't know how reliable this information is but according to this site


    There is about 50 000 Kamis in Nepal, split in black smiths, gold, silver and copper smiths. Wikipedia raises that number up to 90 000.

    I really like the spirit of the Kami cast (Prayer Points)... But there is one thing I really don't understand:

    So many Kamis but so few known reliable stores/sources to buy real usable Kukris (HI, Tora, KHHI, feel free to insert others)

    Is it because it is more "lucrative" for a Kami to make tourist/display Kukris?
    Is it because of the way they organize themselves? ie the craftsmanship for usable kukris only serves the locals?
    Is it because of the lack of means to go on a larger commercial scale?
    I can only speculate...

    Can someone familiar with the Nepalese culture enlighten my ignorant soul?
  2. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    might have more to do with the caste system-- I mean its not usual of khukuri for the kami to put his name on the blade, in that culture its usually the high caste buyer who actually has names and such put on expensive things-- I am not sure either, but I know that historic khukuri never have kami mark, and in all indian influenced cultures the makers were generally overlooked until you got into persia and arabia ( in my experience with antiques)
  3. ndoghouse

    ndoghouse Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 26, 2010
    If they were made as service weapons i can see why they would put the manufacturer source info there. Khuks start falling apart then they know where to go to get the problem fixed. Lives depended on it. Even though the construction styles differ from Indian/British made to Nepali made and even WWI vs. WWII there is still no reason for them to put individual Kami marks on them. So lets say all the other Khuks made would be common tools like we use our shovels or rakes. Why would they bother putting their personal ID on a utilitarian tool unless someone came along (uncle Bill) and decided that this caste deserves more recognition? Artist sign their paintings. So not only did Mr.M think the Kamis deserved to be recognized he had the forethought to add the company marks as well to the products before he passed. He may have very well started a new tradition that will live on forever! Forever is now! Thats good enough for me!
  4. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    well even look at the long leafs-- its all regiment , number and who actually its assigned too, even the name of the prime minister anything but giving a nod to the people who did the work,nothing to do with manufacturer. and yeah thats exactly what he did , kami get recognition from us that is impossible in own culture , and monetary benefit, and I personally think they are masters , thus i want their names upon the blades
  5. ndoghouse

    ndoghouse Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 26, 2010
    Yep Longleafs definitely im speaking of (the 03 stash).The regiment info may have been tagged to the manufacturer? We dont know for sure because the stash was pillaged with little regard to historical significance. There may have been a book the engraver had to log in the weapon number to the manufacture to get paid for and be accountable for? Who knows? Thats just speculation on my part but we just dont know. It would be cool to find some records like that. I doubt anything like logs etc survived. I still want to get that book "Guns of the Gurkhas" by John Walters and see what im missing. I just heard from IMA a few days ago and they were saying most of the scabbards we all worm eaten and destroyed. There were some but have been sold out. I doubt paperwork would have survived long. Its just a shame this stash wasnt treated like an archeological site. It might have answered many questions. Your right Gehazi it dont happen here. You have to buy a Million dollar supercar before the engine builder is allowed to sign the engine block! Definitely not middle caste.
  6. greenwoods


    Sep 2, 2006
    Point of view. Perception. If you manage to transcend western awareness then you will have traveled.

  7. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
  8. snowwolf

    snowwolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 11, 2013
    Ok guys that's very interesting but doesn't explain why there is 50 000 Kamis in Nepal and only 3 known stores known for selling Kukris made for field use (tool or weapon)
  9. davidf99

    davidf99 Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    This is what Wikipedia says:

    "Kami (Nepali: कामी) is a community in Nepal which belongs to the Indo-Aryan ethnic group. Kamis are essentially blacksmiths who are scattered in almost all hilly districts of Nepal. They are the makers of famous Kukri knives which are used by the Gurkha Army. According to the 2001 Nepal Census, there are a total of 895,954 Kami in the country,of which 96.69% were Hindus and 2.21% were Buddhists."

    In round numbers, that's 900,000 kami. Keeping in mind that Wikipedia articles are not totally reliable, and assuming that the 900,000 figure is what the 2001 Nepal Census reported, the reference is to an entire community or caste, not actual knifemakers or even blacksmiths.

    Whatever the real number of knifemakers might be, probably most of them work in villages and produce knives and tools for local use, or to sell in the towns. There are probably many "known stores" selling these implements in Nepal; they're just not known to us.

    It takes certain kinds of connections, resources and expertise to establish an international presence, even in the age of the internet. I would think that many of those Nepali kamis would find it easier to sell their khukuris through one of the established exporters than to become exporters themselves. There must be many "enterprising" business types in Nepal, but they might find it more profitable to export textiles and crafts items rather than large knives which are harder to produce and have a much more limited international customer base.

    That's my take on the question.
  10. snowwolf

    snowwolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 11, 2013
    That was also my impression.
  11. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    despite these things I think it has more to do with the caste system than anything still, no kami will ever have real money to export or make a name, its only possible because HI -- the other khukri company do not allow kami to mark blades with their names, despite what KHH or the others say -- There is NO authentic Khukuri company other than HI-- as HI is the only company that gives credit where it is due. and only HI uses traditional methods, despite being able to get large machines like the other big khukuri companies, I am relatively certain only HI makes the khukuri traditionally and by hand .(of the major western sellers)

    if you look at other company khukuri I bet you could put them side by side, same model and you would see an identical knife, thats because a machine did it

    and absolutely there are not "known stores" in the sense of HI, there is no other store like HI that gives credit to the Kami and makes them the focus of the business

    I have asked tora, khh etc why they dont allow kami to mark blades--- it is because they are factories and they dont know anyones name and they dont let anyone mark blades, its assembly line , make as many things as possible to sell to people in the west ( for tora-- in the case of tora its just a british guy trying to claim he has a personal clan of kami and KHH mass produces khukuri , they are not made inthe same fashion or quality as HI -- there is no company other than HI when speaking about khukuris)-- *foaming at the mouth

    very interesting link steve, thanks for posting

    @ greenwoods -- not sure, i think that I prefer western awareness, I love mysticism and all that but the west has more rationally pursued science which is the greatest system of thought ever conceived of by man, not really necessary to transcend "western thought" as it is the dominant one in the world by way of the consumption based society.

    @david99 if we had more "enterprising" we would have more people churning out crap for almost nothing and then asking for a huge mark up -- the down side of modern culture is the value placed on sameness and mass production for profit-- craftsmanship doesnt really add to profit in the long term when you can make a machine that does it the same every time and never wants a day off
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  12. snowwolf

    snowwolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 11, 2013
    Very good writing Gehazi. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    I really doubt the Tora guy would speak that way about his own company. It would be extremely poor marketing. And he's no Donald Trump, from what I understand he owns a martial art school. Unless he is from a very rich family and getting funds from them I don't think he can finance the tooling for automating a high carbon steel forge.

    What you said about unmarked blades vs HI's tells a lot. I broke what would have been the third generation of artists in my family. I understand the means behind the signature. Mandatory artist mark should be on the list of international civil rights. It's a shame not to allow it.
  13. snowwolf

    snowwolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 11, 2013
    Awesome finding Steve... Since Google will mess with the link, I traced it back to the source.

    I recommend this text for a sticky.

    Btw this himalaya.socanth.cam.ac.uk site seems to have a load of great information about the Himalayans.

    EDIT: I found another very interesting reading (and dated 2010!!!)
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  14. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    fair enough, but me and the tora guy had it out a while back, he is just a capitalist trying to take the opportunity afforded by bill and yangdu , and he specifically markets at HI customers claiming to be "more authentic" and saying stuff about bill making it all up, and bura never actually working for the royal family -- basically a host of slanderous balderdash that makes me mad-- so yeah I dont like tora or the guy behind it . Khukuri house is the traditional sense of the upper caste exploiting the kami-- the kami work in large factory setting with the other low caste workers , cranking out profits for the higher caste merchants who do not allow them to mark the blades because they are essentially equipment in the factory not members of a sacred and ancient tradition.

    I agree about mandatory artist marks, people put their soul into that stuff, its not easy work, and it takes concentration and real effort, its why I am so rabid about HI i think

    thank you information age ! -- great links steve and snow ( if you dont mind me asking what do you make?)
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  15. snowwolf

    snowwolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 11, 2013
    As I wrote, I broke the family tradition, so I don't make anything :) my father was an artist, my grand father as well. My grand grand father was doing woodwork and building carts and carriage in his small village. I chose to capitalize on the Information age.

    The nasty ways of higher casts toward lower ones is part of a very long tradition. As horrible as it sounds, it is not about to change. With billions of people in India making an average salary of about 400$ per year. Unless they regroup for a cause, they have next to no means to make changes.

    I even wonder if HI is running into problems with higher casts just because they are elevating the Kamis.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  16. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    it is why they had to move the factory location in nepal as I understand, suddenly they had lots of problems with the locals when they saw low caste having some success, and yeah its not about to change, its how it is done in the west too we just dont have a caste system, but the artists rarely directly benefit from the hard work, only in the small shops, just as you say.

    and hey snow times are changing , this age has more people, and less resources than ever , so yeah it sucks to break tradition but if you dont break it when it needs to change, thats just failing to adapt :D that being said I am overwhelmed with joy that yangdu keeps this niche alive in the information age, so we can own this kind of stuff
  17. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Here's an undated article from The Himalayan Times about the troubles the khukuri "industry" is having, and one major problem is "the lack of skilled manpower and proper training."

    Interesting that the CEO of a khukuri company was quoted (a company I had never heard of before), and he said that they've been in business about 10 years (compared to Himalayan Imports 25 years), and they used to have 200 workers(!), but they are now down to 50 workers. They sell mainly to tourists.

    I looked up this company, and their website says that they have 300 workers at their factory, and in the past 12 years, they made over 5 million khukuris!

    With that many khukuris being made at one factory with that many workers, you can draw your own conclusions. I for one am a happy customer of Himalayan Imports, makers of what I consider to be the highest quality, "fair trade" khukuris.

    "Khukuri industry faces toughest test"
    byRojina Maharjan, The Himalayan Times
  18. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    wow , so glad we are here where the quality is
  19. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    There are many excellent kamis in Nepal. The HI kamis are part of a long, living tradition. Part of the success of HI is bringing international respect to the lineage and traditions. It seems a bit ungentlemanly, and untrue, to speculate that HI is the only vendor of good khukuris.

    HI has departed from the traditions in a several ways. One is an emphasis on quality control in the western sense. HI has had greater and lesser success with this at times, but it remains a core value. Another departure is certain resizings and redimensioning for western users. This has been well received but some people consider "genuine" khukuris to be what a small-stature Nepalese man would use. That is ok and their definition of genuine is a good as anyones', it's just not the definition many of us here use. The last departure I'll mention that HI has made with tradition is the kami markings many of you have referred to. This is not traditional in Nepal. The kamis are low-caste. Although word of mouth circulates about excellent craftsmen, they are not given the respect western craftsmen are. This was a conscious departure from tradition by HI. It has in general been well received, although again to certain collectors it may not be perceived as "genuine."

    My personal definition of genuine involves keeping the ancient and vibrant craft of the kamis alive, and in this sense I think HI makes very "genuine" khukuris. If an artisian gets international respect, or a westerner who always thought khukuris were junk because he never got one that fit his hand before suddenly realizes the genius of the design, or even if kamis discover and use modern glues and micarta, new life, new blood, and new ideas are flowing through the ancient tradition and keeping it vital.
  20. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    great post howard, excellent points, kinda along same lines as greenwoods(as in there are many perspectives of geniune), but fair enough in saying "they are only real khukuri' lets say they are the best ones I can get, or I just prefer them, not sure, but good points-- and yeah why i love HI is that main departure having the kami mark the blade

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