Chau Ma brocade lives on

(VEN) - The indigenous textile products of the Chau Ma ethnic group reflect experiences, religious beliefs, skillful techniques and an enduring passion for the traditional craft practiced for generations in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong.

Distinctive weaving technique

“The technique of placing patterns directly on the fabric helps Chau Ma women unleash their creativity, for example by embroidering geometric, plants and animal patterns, or life changes over time,” said Cat Tien Brocade Cooperative Director Tran Duc Thang. “In particular, the use of outstanding and flexible colors is also a factor that creates a distinctive attraction for the Chau Ma textiles.”

Chau Ma brocade lives on

Chau Ma ethnic women embroider motifs directly on the fabric

Indeed, with contrasting colors and unique patterns, Chau Ma’s displayed products drew special attention at the Art of Indigenous Weaving Exhibition held in early December 2022 in Hanoi.

Even though the loom is simple with only a frame of 12 wooden and bamboo sticks, the Chau Ma people have created brocade fabric with vivid patterns and eye-catching colors.

The Chau Ma women sit on the floor with their legs straightened to hold the loom and stretch the weaving fibers. “It’s really tiring but you get used to it if you do for a long time,” said Dieu Thi Moc of the Chau Ma ethnic group. When girls turn nine or 10, their grandmothers and mothers teach them brocade weaving.

Preserving culture

Tran Tuyet Lan, general director of Craft Link, a Vietnamese not – for – profit fair trade organization, said the Chau Ma have traditionally grown cotton and dyed yarn with natural materials, for example, black from the Neiru tree, yellow from the Mut tree, and red from the Bosil bark. The colors used to set the pattern are usually black, red, yellow, blue, dark indigo, and more recently, new colors like orange and green have been added.

Chau Ma brocade lives on

Dieu Thi Moc of the Chau Ma ethnic group masters traditional weaving techniques

Machine weaving is a major challenge for traditional brocade products of ethnic groups. However, Cat Tien Brocade Cooperative Director Tran Duc Thang affirmed, industrial machines cannot imitate or replace the traditional handmade products. For example, the Chau Ma use 100 percent cotton yarn, which no machine can use. The handmade production also ensures that each cloth is unique, reflecting each weaver’s craftsmanship, emotions, beliefs and life experiences, which cannot be replicated by machines.

With the support of Craft Link, Chau Ma brocade products have become more popular and suitable to the tastes and needs of domestic and foreign consumers, helping gradually improve the livelihood of the minority.

Thanks to product marketing, Chau Ma women have been participating in community activities and have become more proactive and confident in communication. The distinctive culture hidden in each brocade product has been preserved, developed and will spread strongly in the future.

In 2000, Craft Link collaborated with non-governmental organizations to run a training project to preserve and develop the indigenous weaving profession of the Chau Ma, and provided them with management skills as well as reading and writing ability.

Viet Nga

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