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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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Textile Glossary

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The vocabulary used to describe textiles is rich, varied, and often unfamiliar. The definitions here are a representative sample of common textile terms related to hand-made and Lao textiles. Back-strap Loom: The yarn is wound onto a warping frame, which consists of two main sticks with five beaters. The weaver moves her legs and body in the right rhythm for tightening and loosening the warp. She tightens the warp by us- ing her feet to push the beam forwards and by leaning back on the waistband so that the warp is pulled down. Pulling back her legs will cause the warp to slacken as needed. Before setting up the warp, the weaver designs the pattern because she must prepare the heddles for producing the patterns. To produce stylized patterns such as animals, objects, letters, flowers etc., the weaver uses shed sticks to add a supplementary weft. In Asian countries, the back-strap loom, also called body- tension loom, is believed to be older than the upright loom. Batik: Indonesian term for the wax-resist dyeing process, or a fabric decorated with this process. Such fabrics reached fantastic heights of virtuosity on the island of Java in Indonesia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after the introduction of machine-made cotton fabrics permitted more finely controlled designs. In Laos, the Hmong use this technique for their skirts. Beater: A pivoted frame that holds the reed on a treadle loom. Used to beat each weft thread snugly into position. Binding system: The method...

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