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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 III – Rituals and Festivities

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Cultural practices are enhanced when people can bring up their children according to their values and beliefs, when they can take part in neighbourhood activities as well as in important national celebrations, when they can develop self-esteem and local identity. In Laos, most rituals and festivals are connected with religion and the yearly rice farming cycle. The timing of the festivals is calculated according to the Buddhist lunar calendar. To give an idea and to understand the deep meaning of figures and patterns on Lao crafted textiles, it is important to understand the religious and philosophical background of the people. In an oral society, where the written word is not under- stood, it makes sense to pass on knowledge from generation to generation through rituals. The younger generation learn their culture by doing, by reciting poems, songs, and prayers during the family’s weekly visit to the temple and festivities in the house. They are made aware by the elders of the joy of life but also of the dangers that can destroy family, clan, and community. Here I want to put forward the principal ceremonies of some ethnic groups that are usually not seen on tourist pages. The following rituals convey the kindness and the deep honest respect of Lao people towards nature and the social life within the family and the community. Spirit- and Ancestor-Worship Among the numerous rites in different ethnic groups, the most important one is to please the spirit of the rice-field, who can cause starvation,...

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