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Siho and Naga – Lao Textiles

Reflecting a People’s Tradition and Change

Edeltraud Tagwerker

Siho and Naga are the most powerful mythological figures in Lao tradition manifested in their textiles. This book focuses on the history and culture of the creators of exquisitely hand woven fabrics that have attracted textile connoisseurs all over the world. The study leads not only to rare weaving techniques, patterns and natural dyes, but also to a vast ethnic diversity of people who used to live self sufficiently of their natural environment in rural areas or under royal patronage in ancient cities. Textiles have always been an integral part of the social and spiritual life of Lao people who now, after a devastating war, are challenged to come to terms with tourism, cash, and global market strategies. Siho and Naga shall raise awareness for urgent educational reform countrywide and encourage local and international preservers of Lao culture to continue their efforts to the benefit of Lao’s young generation, who eventually will grasp the value of their own textiles in order to set them against cheap imports.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.....................................................................................5 INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................9 PART I – LAND AND PEOPLE OF LAOS.........................................................13 A SHORT VIEW INTO LAO CULTURAL HISTORY..................................................17 EDUCATION AND SOCIETY WITHIN THE DIVERSITY OF ETHNIC GROUPS .............31 SOME ETHNIC CHARACTERISTICS .......................................................................37 PART II – LAO TRADITIONAL TEXTILES......................................................55 THE LAO TEXTILE MUSEUM ...............................................................................55 NEW ENTERPRISES CREATING LAO TEXTILES ....................................................59 GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF LAO GARMENTS ..............................................65 LAO FABRICS FOR HOUSE, TEMPLE, RITUALS AND BELIEFS ...............................75 NATURAL FIBERS AND MATERIALS ....................................................................85 DYEING TECHNIQUES..........................................................................................97 GENERAL WEAVING TECHNIQUES ....................................................................101 LAO TRADITIONAL WEAVING ...........................................................................109 EMBROIDERY ....................................................................................................121 PATTERNS AND MOTIFS ....................................................................................129 PART III – RITUALS AND FESTIVITIES .......................................................139 SPIRIT- AND ANCESTOR-WORSHIP....................................................................139 LAO CEREMONIES AND FESTIVITIES .................................................................145 FESTIVALS BASED ON MYTH AND RITE ............................................................151 CONCLUSION....................................................................................................159 APPENDIX..........................................................................................................163 THE MAIN PRINCIPLES OF BUDDHISM...............................................................163 A REMARKABLE LAO CITIZEN..........................................................................167 THE HMONG TIGER...........................................................................................171 TEXTILE GLOSSARY.......................................................................................175 BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................................................................183 INTERNET – LINKS ..........................................................................................187 ILLUSTRATIONS ..............................................................................................189 INDEX.................................................................................................................191

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