The Mekong-Ganga-Cooperation Asian Traditional Textiles Museum opened this week in Siem Reap and showcases different textiles and weaving techniques from the Mekong Ganga region – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and India.
“The museum features traditional textiles from around two river cultures,” says museum director Professor Charu Smita Gupta. “That is the Ganga and Mekong. When we talk of Ganga, it is India, but when we talk of Mekong we have the five different countries.”
The museum is divided into four galleries: the Orientation Gallery, the Material and Process Gallery, Traditional Textiles and finally Contemporary Trends. The Material and Process Gallery displays different decoration techniques such as ikat, a kind of tie-dye method of dyeing fibres before the weaving process.
“With ikat we tie and dye the warp and weft before weaving. You end up with the pattern on the yarn not the fabric, and when you weave that yarn, the pattern emerges,” says Gupta.
“It’s a very important tradition of Southeast Asia and is common to almost all these countries. So there are certain common traditions and we are trying to emphasise how these traditions are now setting trends in the contemporary scenario.
“In the third gallery we have depicted the finished forms of each country, some costumes and the cultural trends.”
Various fabrics are displayed, from silk to cotton and even an ornate Indian carpet woven with strands of silver. The oldest textile in the museum is an Indian piece dating from the nineteenth century.
For children and budding fashionistas, there is an interactive angle with a work station where they can try their hand at Indian block printing onto white fabric. There are also plans for an on-site training centre in the future, as well as a shop.