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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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PART I – Land and People of Laos

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Laos lies at the crossroads of Indochina sharing borders with Thailand, Vietnam, China, Myanmar, and Cambodia. The Mekong River flows through almost the entire length of the country from north to south, creating a natural border with Thailand. P 1: Map of Laos Of its total land area (236,800 km2), 70% are mountain and plateau areas, which in the north rise to a maximum elevation of 2,820m with Mount Bia. To the east, the thickly forested Annamite chain forms the border to Vietnam. In the south, heights reach about 1,980m, of which the Boloven Plateau, covered by open woodland, has generally fertile soil. The only extensive lowlands lie along the eastern bank of the Mekong River that flows through nearly 2000 kilometres of Lao territory and has always been a lifeline for the country in terms of fish sup- plies, transportation routes, and agriculture. Several hydroelectric facilities, situ- ated on the tributaries of the Mekong, generate electricity for export to Thailand. Laos has the typical tropical monsoon climate of the region; forests support a rich wildlife, including elephants, gaurs (wild oxen), deer, bears, tigers and leopards, monkeys, and a large variety of birds. Laos has a population of 5.62 million (2005 PART I – LAND AND PEOPLE OF LAOS 14 census), and an estimated 6.677.534 in 2008, of which one quarter live in moun- tainous regions, whereas the majority of the population lives along the Mekong River and its branches. Laos’ population density is one of the lowest...

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