Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lao Textile: A Representation of a Rich Cultural Heritage

During the SSEAYP International General Assembly in Vientiane, we had the opportunity of visiting the Lao Textile Museum located at the Nongthatai Village. I have asked the local participants which of the institutions to be visited would be the best place to see and the said museum was highly recommended. 

This is considered the center of Lao culture as it exhibits Lao architecture house style and exposition of ancient handmade silk textiles. The weaving tools were on display and traditional methods of textiles coloring with natural color from leaves and fruits were demonstrated. The museum does activities like coloring and dyeing of cotton scarves, and experiencing the real weaving tools being used. It is founded by Mr. Sisane in 1998 and it’s a part of the Lao-Japan Traditional Cultural Education Center.

Just outside the place, one can notice traditional house and its design. When we entered, I had seen several floor looms displayed at the lower ground. Weavers were there to demonstrate to us their work. They showed us the raw materials used then the textiles as output. They were all colorful and came in varied designs. The designs are reflection of the Laotian culture. 

The very basic weaving technique is called tam sat thammada. It literally means weaving by regularly passing shuttles through the weft. The same color of thread is being used in the warp and the weft however, some would prefer different colours. If alternate colors are used in the warp yarn then the color pattern would be seen lengthwise in the entire fabric whereas if alternate colors for weft yarn it becomes widthwise. If both warp and weft yarns used different colors then a checked pattern would be achieved. 

Some of the designs are the traditional Hmong handicraft design that features bags, scarves cushions and more. There was organza silk work. These silk pieces draw their inspiration from traditional wedding blankets. Some of the designs even date back to early 20th Century. The most prevalent designs are the nagas which appear in many many forms and has its origins in both Buddhist and animist tradition. The naga is the gigantic mythical serpent that lives in the Mekong river which is inseparably intertwined with the livelihood of the Lao people. 

The ardous task of dyeing of the thread was also demonstrated to us. Several dozens of earthened or clay jars were present in the area which they use in the fermentation process for a period of several weeks. The dye appeared green but when mixed it turned into deep bright blue. Dried fruit peels, grasses, coconut shells and other materials were identified as ingredients to the process. They also use the indigo plant which is grown on the grounds.

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