Celebrating the life of Susi Dunsmore

(Susi in foreground)

Susi Dunsmore passed away on 20th January 2017 aged 90, and will be greatly missed by many friends around the world. Susi was a special friend to Nepal Leprosy Trust through her work in Nepal with dhaka cloth producers in Dhankuta and with the allo nettle cloth producers in Sankhuwasabha – both places in the hill country of Nepal. She helped develop the production and style of these cloths and they became an important part of Nepal Leprosy Trust’s handicraft production activity and greatly influenced the style of many of our products.

Susi grew up in Berlin and then studied art in Dusseldorf. After graduating, she took an opportunity to teach art in Kuching in Borneo where she inspired many students and wrote several handbooks on teaching art. She also met her future husband John Dunsmore who was an agricultural specialist, and then travelled with him to Belize, The Gambia and Nepal. In Nepal she helped many cloth producers to develop their skills and improve their income generating potential, and she was affectionately known as “Allo Didi” (Auntie Nettle). Susi tirelessly helped the indiginous textile producers develop their products and establish solid relationships with craft producers like Nepal Leprosy Trust. At her funeral, many tributes came from Nepal, acknowledging the debt that so many there owe to Susi. After her husband John died in 2001, Susi continued her work with the producers in Nepal, and set up a charity in memory of John, called the John Dunsmore Nepalese Textile Trust, which has links with the Royal College of Art and provided travel scholarships to promising art students to go to Nepal and work with the textile producers there on new designs.

Alongside this, Susi was a strong supporter of the Eastwick Road Church at Bookham after she and John retired to Bookham in the late 1980s, and this led to the church developing a lasting friendship with NLT. In the following years, Susi and the other folk at ERC arranged events in support of her charity and NLT’s work in Nepal, including singing and music events, and always with Nepalese handicraft products for sale. The last of these events (click here) was in November 2016, where Susi was as energetic as ever, full of enthusiasm for the beautiful crafts on display, and ably supported by the wonderful musicians linked with Eastwick Road Church. It was a wonderful evening and brilliantly supported, and, although it turned out to be Susi’s “swan song”, it demonstrated her continued commitment to spend her life and energy for the poor in Nepal.

At Susi’s funeral on 22nd February, there was a packed church, and tributes came from many people from around the world, as well as from institutions including the Royal College of Art and the Natural History Museum. The event was a real celebration of her life, and of her legacy, which includes many friends who will miss her acutely, many lives changed for the better in several poor countries – especially Nepal – and some lovely works of art, including the stained glass window and embroidered designs in Eastwick Road Church, and several books about art and Nepalese textiles.

Along with all these other friends of Susi, we will greatly miss her, and we thank the Lord for sharing her with us for a time. NLT owes her a considerable debt.

(CLICK HERE to visit Susi’s obituary in The Guardian)