A New Exhibition at TAEC Features Photographs and Videos Created by Ethnic Minority Women.
In 2012, TAEC and Photoforward, an international media arts programme, began a joint project, Stitching Our Stories (SOS), that engages women and girls from minority ethnic groups in Laos to become story keepers for their communities. To date, 28 participants have learned about digital photography and video and used these tools to explore and document their cultural heritage.
TAEC features their work in our newest exhibition, Caregivers to Culture Keepers: Stories from Women in a Changing Laos. You can visit the online exhibition to learn more about SOS and the women and girls behind the camera. Produced in partnership with PhotoForward, the exhibition features videos, photos, oral histories, and cultural artefacts showing the diverse and changing roles of women in Laos today.
Community Researchers chose their own topic to explore in their communities. Using photography and video, they documented an aspect of life that is important to them. You can view all seven videos created through the SOS programme on the SOS youtube channel. Two of our community researchers focused on ethnic handicrafts in their villages.
Meet Keolavanh, Community Researcher of Tai Lue Weaving
Keolavan, known as Keo, helps her family sell Tai Lue handicrafts at the Night Market in Luang Prabang. To document and learn more about the tradition of Tai Lue weaving, Keo interviewed weavers in her home village of Ban Phanom and created the short video, Tai Lue Weaving: Culture, Craft, and Identity.
Women weavers in Ban Phanom stress the importance of knowing how to weave as part of Tai Lue identity. Traditionally, men will set up the looms and women create the weavings. Girls first learn to weave simple, smaller pieces from more experienced weavers. The first weavings a girl makes will have few or no motifs. Older weavers pass down the skills and motifs to girls and young women through practice, as designs and methods are not written down.
Keo says, “I was taught Tai Lue weaving when I was young, and through my research, I learned many more things about our traditions and techniques that I want to share with the next generation.”
Meet Pasong, Community Researcher of Hmong Embroidery
As an intern at TAEC for the past 16 months, Pasong helped to prepare artefacts for the newest exhibition. For the SOS program, she decided to explore Hmong embroidery, a skill she has been learning since she was a young girl. Through interviews with her mother and grandmother, Pasong's video, My Mom and Traditional Hmong Embroidery, shows family heirlooms and Pasong's discovery of rich traditions in her family.
Pasong says, “I've learned many things about Lao ethnic groups, embroidery, and my mother's life through this project, and I'm excited for visitors to see our embroidery and hear our stories.”
Pasong's mother created a fabric doll and baby carrier for the exhibition.
Before school was out for the summer, TAEC visited four primary schools for our school outreach program reaching nearly 70 children. Students learned about 5 of the ethnic groups in Laos: Yao Mien, Lahu, Akha, Hmong, and Khmhu. Since most school children in Laos never have the opportunity to visit museums as a part of their school extracurricular activities, TAEC also sponsors and coordinates school groups to visit the museum. After a tour, we set them loose on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum.
We also hosted 275 older students through two college group visits, one from Vientiane and one from Luang Prabang. We are happy to share our permanent and temporary exhibitions with more people in Laos. Visitors learn about Akha, Kmhmu, Tai Lui, and Hmong people through exhibits of traditional clothing, household objects and handmade items including baskets, jewelry, textiles and carving. The visits included a special exhibit on the Katu people.
Our handicrafts team headed north to visit Tai, Yao, Yao, Kmhmu, and Tai artisans in Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, and Oudomxai this past March. It’s always helpful to meet with producers face-to-face and strengthen relationships with our all-important source communities.
A typical visit starts with meeting the head of the handicrafts group for the village, followed by a walk around the village to meet with other artisans. On this visit to a Tai Dam village, we talked with several of the weavers working on a new design for TAEC and got to see the new scarf along various stages of the weaving process. The women have organized themselves into informal weaving cooperatives made up of family and friends and may range from high school students who weave after school to grandmothers! We also organize short training and feedback sessions to discuss designs, quality, and new product ideas. To see more photos from our trip, check out our photo album on Facebook!
Welcome to the Year of the Horse, 2014 and soon-to-be 2557! TAEC hit a number of milestones last year, with your help!
In addition to opening the new exhibition, “Carving a Community: the Katu People” we:
This year, we plan to expand our handicraft work even further to include more communities, to open our first community-curated exhibit, and to extend our education work into local orphages.
Thank you for your partnership and we look forward to sharing our progress with you over the year!
After a year of conferences, trade fairs, and research trips, TAEC is hitting the road again in late October for a handicraft development trip. As a part of our sustainable livelihoods and advocacy programme, this trip will expand our work with rural artisans in Vientiane Province. In Khasi District, we will reunite with a Mien community we’ve worked with for 3 years to develop new designs and provide additional training in quality control, using their traditional skills to create products suitable for a foreign market. We will also be making our first trip to Vang Vieng to visit a Tai Lao community of weavers to develop a new collaboration.
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Lao People's Democratic Republic