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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 II – Lao Traditional Textiles

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The production of woven and embroidered textiles is without doubt the most pro- lific of all traditional crafts in Laos. Almost all regions of the country are suitable for the farming of cotton and mulberry trees, which are often planted on co- operative land with a view to providing raw materials for the wider community. Produced in many different styles and dyed in a range of colours according to the geographical origin and ethnicity of the weavers, silk, cotton and hemp cloth is hand-woven on wooden frame looms, and weaving techniques are handed down from one generation to the next. In recent years, many provincial weaving fami- lies have come to Vientiane for employment and are now part of new and modern style textile weavers that include both regional and international designs. Traditional textiles all over the world develop from particular materials grown in the area, which, using specific techniques, essentially serve the purpose to protect the body from cold and heat in form of wrappings and clothes. Combined with habitual customs, social values and the influence of climate and lifestyle, a com- munity’s textiles develop distinctive traditional characteristics that mark a sense of identity and belonging. In many places young girls have spent a major part of their youth with weaving, stitching, or sewing their dowry for the day they begin a new life in their own home as a married woman. Devoted mothers embroider for their children carriers and caps with sparkling adornments; they weave shawls for their...

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