Located amongst the many shops in Porter Square is the small Tibetan Arts Gallery (1925 Mass Ave.). The inconspicuous store opened in 1996. Since then, the shop has offered traditional wares from India and Nepal at prices lower than most other places in the city.
The gallery’s owner, Bomdonn Ngodup, was born in Tibet but later escaped to India with her parents and siblings, where they settled. Her parents became street vendors selling Tibetan crafts, and over time Ngodup’s appreciation for the arts of her Tibetan heritage grew. While in India, she also worked directly with the Tibetan Government in Exile, a group that helps refugees and that administered a network of schools and other activities for Tibetans in India. After starting a family of her own, Ngodup moved to the United States in 1996, ultimately settling in Boston.
Ngodup opened the Tibetan Arts Gallery shortly after relocating. The gallery is truly a family operation, and Ngodup says she likes to involve her children to instill in them the lessons and appreciation she learned growing up. Her biggest goal for moving here was to give her children a better education.
“A goal accomplished,” she says with a smile.
Ngodup travels to India and Nepal once a year in order to stock her shelves, and she receives monthly shipments containing items from friends and family currently living there. Her main objective is to collect a broad spectrum of items from all over so that customers can find something they really connect with. Ngodup’s prices are some of the lowest in the city for the pieces she sells. Buying directly from artisans in Nepal and India means that they set the prices. From there, Ngodup is able to determine how much she can keep in stock.
After almost 20 years in business, Ngodup has a lot of experience and plenty of items to offer customers. The gallery’s Buddharupa are some of the most interesting in the shop. These solid brass Buddha figurines come in many sizes and forms and each one is delicately handmade in India. Ngodup says that one of the best things about them is “each one has its tiny imperfections.”
Among some of her other favorite items, Ngodup mentions the beautifully crafted singing bowls and meditation bells and a selection of books on a variety of Buddhist practices. Ngodup says she welcomes all walks of life into her store and encourages exploration and learning.
“Don’t make yourself small.”