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Ms Phet and her husband showcase their tribal dress at Lao-ITECC in Vientiane. Vientiane Times

FEATURE: Xekong family proudly making mark with handmade textiles

Siladda Suliyong

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - An ethnic family in Xekong province is proud that many people, including foreigners, have expressed an interest in their handmade textiles.

The family from Mayhuameuang village in Lamam district belongs to the Ngae ethnic group and has produced tribal costumes, including sinh (a long skirt skirt), shirts and tribal dress, which are made of cotton and dyed with natural colours without the use of chemicals.

Ms Phet, 45, said she has continued her forebears’ practice of weaving textiles, which have been produced since ancient times. Most of the households in Mayhuameuang village are also involved in weaving.

It takes seven or eight days to produce smaller items of clothing, while the large ones, especially sinh and baize, require about 10 days.

This is because sinh and baize have many different kinds of decorative designs that are difficult to weave.

A small baize piece is two metres long and 80 centimetres wide, while a large one is 6 metres long and 80 cm wide.

Most of the textiles, including sinh and baize, are sold for 100,000 kip per metre, Ms Phet said. An item that is four metres long, for example, sells for 400,000 kip.

Prices range from 50,000 kip for small items such as coasters to 6 million kip for a tribal dress, with the price depending on size, colour and the detailed patterns that are unique to ethnic textiles.

All of the products are dyed with natural colours and are more expensive than goods dyed with chemicals. The natural dyes do not affect the body and last much longer without fading.

The tribal dress is very expensive because its decorative designs indicate the status of a person. In the past, all rich people owned a tribal dress.

The tribal dress is only for men, and is worn on special occasions such as weddings and festivals.

Ms Phet designs most of her products herself so they are different from the items sold in shops. She makes natural colours using the seeds of jackfruit and golden shower trees, marigolds and other flowers.

“Each stage of production is complicated, and this makes some products very expensive,” she said.

In the past, Ms Phet and her family wove the textiles themselves but she now has to hire helpers because she has so many customers.

Some goods are 100 percent handmade and can be immediately sold, while others, such as coasters and bags, are 80 percent handmade and must be finished using machines.

Ms Phet is proud to produce the traditional goods, especially the tribal dress of the Ngae ethnic group, and says she will teach others in her family and village to continue the fine tradition of weaving because it’s a good way to preserve Lao culture.

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