IKTT (Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles), from SiemReap Cambodia
IKTT (Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles), from SiemReap Cambodia

Action Plan 2003-7

Project for Wisdom from Forest(PWF)

2003 - 2007

1. Background
First Period (1995-1999)
In 1995 Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) began a five-year project for the revitalization of traditional textiles, which were nearly destroyed during the 20-year civil war in Cambodia. These activities were carried out in Phnom Penh.
The revitalization work was carried out with master weavers living in villages. The first step of IKTT’s work was to try to find experienced weavers in villages renowned for fine textiles. In the past, practical knowledge was transmitted from master weavers and aged villagers to the younger generation. However, during the civil war many skilled persons passed away which made it very difficult to restore some processes. IKTT also tried to revitalize the traditional sericulture that produces yellow silk yarns. Concerning colors we used only traditional natural dyes. We understand nonetheless Khmer culture and natural environment as being the background of traditional textiles and in particular the lives of the people in general.

Second Period (2000-2002)
In 2000 a three-year project got under way in Siem Reap. Prior to these three years IKTT had paid more attention to the quality of the textiles produced with traditional skills transferred to next generation. IKTT then changed the aim of the project to supporting woman’s self-reliance. We recruited trainees from rural areas with the first priority given to those from poor families, and orphans.
These women are now producing traditional textiles through skills obtained by receiving training from master weavers who have rich practical knowledge. IKTT has taken more than 300 trainees now, but there are currently more than a thousands applicants who wish to join the institute as paid trainees. And although the initially planned three years have passed, this training program continues to be the main activity of the institute.

2. Summary Plan of the Third Period (2003-2007)
After research and revitalization experience with master weavers, IKTT realized that restoration of a rich natural environment is crucial to the revitalization of fine textile traditions as in the old days.
In 2003 IKTT started a five-year project entitled, Project for Wisdom from Forest (PWF, or formerly “Project to Regenerate a Traditional Forest in Siem Reap”). This project will focus on restoration of the natural environment for producing materials to be used to make traditional textiles. For example, this project plans to restore sericulture to produce traditional Cambodian original yellow silk yarn and to plant cotton. Both silk and cotton yarns will be reeled and spun by hand as in the old days. Many species of plants, such as indigo, will be planted for use as natural dyes, and Lac insect will be raised in order to obtain the nest which is used to create red color dye. In the past most natural materials were readily available in the natural environment. But due to environmental destruction during the civil war, some materials, such as Lac insect nests, can no longer be found in the wild.
IKTT’s aim is to establish a self-sufficient system, which is sustainable and makes use of recyclables. IKTT’s main objective will be to produce traditional handicrafts with the materials grown at the PWF. This project will create job opportunities and promote human development.
The PWF project aims to become a model of income-generating activity in the rural area. IKTT will organize a production co-operation network with the villagers. This means that we do not require material suppliers, but will rely on human capacity and Cambodian spirit. A detailed working plan of the project can be found in the following pages.

3. Organizational Structure of IKTT
a. IKTT Workshop has four units
In the workshop, master weavers reproduce new textiles from old textile designs with skilled weavers as apprentices. This is done in the same way that a mother teaches her daughter. There are currently four senior weavers who are working as master weavers at IKTT. After a trainee completes her intermediate level training at IKTT she can start to work on her own in her village. This work will be supported by IKTT. But IKTT is also able to support her if she wishes to continue her studies at the IKTT workshop. IKTT currently has about 300 trainees aged from 15 to 70 years old and pays salaries to the trainees as is done at other working places.

Research and Study Division:
This division is responsible for correcting traditional textiles, tools and relating data with field research.
Traditional Textile Revitalization Division:
This division is responsible for reproducing high-class textile by master weavers with high skilled weavers.
Training Division:
Training courses are divided into three levels of instruction; Beginning (3 years), intermediate (2 years) and advanced. In each level of instruction trainees learn about the processes involved in weaving traditional textiles. Skills learned include: Production of silk fiber, banana fiber, dyeing material, dyeing, ikat, plain weaving, stripes weaving, ikat weaving, wooden work, bamboo work, basket ring work, needlework, finishing work, painting work, etc.
Sales Division;
This division is responsible for sales of IKTT products and villagers’ products.
IKTT does not have big donors so our activities rely on donations from individuals and from people who buy our products. IKTT’s policy is to sell directly to users because our products are not mass produced textiles. This enables our weavers to see the buyer of her textiles, which makes the weavers become happier and has a positive effect for training.

b. Site division of Project for Wisdom from Forest
The Project for Wisdom from Forest will be located in Chot Sam village, which is located 22 kilometers north of Siem Reap (Chot Som village, Angkor Tom district, Siem Reap Province). The forest will be planted between Angkor Tom and Bantey Srey Temple, close to the Siem Reap River. The first stage of the site will be approximately five hectares.
In the past, that area was covered in rich forests but now it resembles a wasteland. IKTT classifies the project as a reforestation project for revitalizing the natural environmental.
Most of the staff at the forest site comes from Kampot province, which is located 420 kilometers from Siem Reap. In 1995, IKTT started a sericulture project in a village in Kampot. After that IKTT maintained a relationship with the villagers, and now they have agreed to come to Siem Reap to help us with this project, as they have experience as traditional sericulture specialists.
At present there are 32 staff (5 Jun ’03) living at the site, in temporary accommodations with two wells.

4. 2003 Special Project of IKTT
a. Publishing “The Art of Khmer Ikat”
In August 2003, IKTT will publish a book, “The Art of Khmer Ikat”, with 56 full color pages. IKTT started research in 1995 and has collected old textiles, and found some unique characteristics about Cambodian Ikat that will be explained in the book. Due to our limited budget, the first edition (1000 copies) will be published in Japanese only.
b. Textile Exhibition in Siem Reap.
The Center for Khmer Studies (CSK), located in Siem Reap has invited IKTT to display old textiles and present our research findings. This exhibit will be held at the hall of CSK, from 15 September to 15 December 2003.
This exhibition will be the first exhibition of our work since we started the project in Cambodia. At a seminar, which is to be held on 12th December 2003, we have invited important speakers who will focus their talks on ‘A Blending of Two Esthetics: The Khmer & Cham Senses’. For more information see:
http://www.khmerstudies.org or IKTT website.
c. IKTT textiles at the Smithsonian Institution, Sackler Museum Shop.
Last September, Sakler Museum Shop, Smithsonian Institution, agreed to display and sell IKTT’s textiles at their shop. As of March 2003, IKTT textiles can be seen and purchased at the Smithsonian. For more information see:
d. Exhibition and sales in Japan.
This year IKTT has plans to exhibit and sell our textiles in at several locations in Japan. In May exhibits were held in Nigata, Tokyo and Osaka. In November exhibits will be held in Kyoto and Fukuoka. Fukuoka City Museum has scheduled an exhibition of Cambodia Textiles and IKTT will co-operate with this exhibition. For more information see:

5. Working Plan of Project for Wisdom from Forest (PWF)
We wish to learn from people and forest that have inherited many hundred years of human experience and knowledge of nature. When old and new traditions are combined, it becomes wisdom.
The PWF project has a three-stage plan for 5 years (about forty two hectares of land in total). The first stage (about five hectares, for the tentative period of 2003-2005) has already started. This year we have plans to open a sericulture and organic cotton farm, indigo farm and to plant trees for natural dyes etc.
Now our workshop is located in Siem Reap town. Here our main work is restoring traditional silk textile and training. At the end of this year the PWF project site will start a training program for sericulture and cotton-spinning work. Later a training program for cotton weaving is scheduled to begin at PWF.
In the next five years we have plans for a second and third stage, but their exact implementation date depends on our ability to receive funding in the future. Once we have secured sufficient funds to implement these phases, a starting point for each phase will be established.
However, I am confident that after five years we will be able to start feeding Lac insects in the PWF forest and relocate our main workshop to the PWF site.

a. Making a master plan
In the past there was harmonious co-habituation between people and the forest. The PWF project plans to construct a new village and restore the natural environment with people’s life together. To produce a master plan we need to combine traditional and modern wisdom.
b. Landmine survey and demining
There was a report of an explosion near our project site last year. IKTT has asked demining organizations and local specialists to survey the land and clear suspected areas.
c. Plant survey
The area might have had rich forests before, but now there are many bushes and shrubs that are one to two meters high, and many weeds.
After we finish clearing the weeds from the site, we will start a survey of existing trees. We have already discovered the existence of some useful trees for dyeing or parasitic trees for lac insects.
d. Construction of training and living facilities and a community facility
At the moment we are unable to provide information on the exact size or number of buildings required. IKTT intends to construct a small craft village on the land of about one hectare. This depends on our budget and working schedule. Now there are two small huts for the staff’s accommodations, two toilets and three small huts for dining and other activities.
What are important for us is that all the huts or houses have the same design as traditional villager’s houses, and that all the facilities are built by ourselves. We have skilled carpenters who can train the younger generation. We intend to construct the facilities one by one as required.
e. Water supply system and facility, clean energies and recycle system
The PWF project area plans to use clean energy (clean electricity generating system, biogas system, wind power, water pump etc.), and make use of environmentally friendly garbage and waste-water recycle systems. IKTT hopes to make use of the latest technologies based on information from knowledgeable groups and organizations.
f. Sericulture
Yellow silk is native to Cambodia. Also Chinese and Japanese white silk originate from Cambodian yellow silk. IKTT researched all around and began to revitalize traditional sericulture in 1995 in a village in Kampot province.
Before, Cambodian yellow silk was famous for its fine quality in the region, but now weavers in the villages use Vietnamese silk. Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese silk are different from Cambodian silk in character. Japanese silk has been improved and hybridized for machine reeling and weaving in the last century, but it has brought about a change in the character of silk. Cambodian yellow silk still maintains the natural characters of good silk.
In the first stage of the project, the area of the mulberry trees will be just half a hectare, however in the second stage its area will be expanded.
g. Cotton and indigo farm
Cotton and indigo trees were popular in Cambodia in the past, but today it is difficult to find them. The typical fabric of daily use in Cambodia is the cotton Kroma (multi-purpose towel/scarf/handkerchief). Each Cambodian has one or many of which is colored blue or red. Traditionally the red came from lac insect nest and the blue came from the indigo tree. However today the cotton for all Kroma is imported and chemical dyes are used to obtain the blue and red color. IKTT plans to restore both, but the restoration of organic cotton is especially important for the time being.
h. Feeding lac insects
An important color for traditional Cambodian textiles is red. Since ancient times red has been obtained from the nest of Lac insects (stick lac). In 1930, this stick lac was exported from Cambodia to Europe. But during the civil war period, people cut down all the parasitic trees of the Lac insects, and the Lac insect can no longer be found in Cambodia.
Feeding Lac insects is symbolic for the PWF project. IKTT is trying to revitalize traditional textiles but we can’t dye red in the same manner as in old times because lac nests need to be fresh. In the past, lac insect nests were always available behind the houses of the weavers, but now they must be imported from other countries. Last year we prepared parasitic trees from seeds and now some of them have already been planted in the PWF site. We also found some parasitic trees in the site. Five years from now, IKTT hopes to see lac insects at the PWF site.
i. Plant trees for natural dye materials
We will preserve three hectares of land at the PWF to be turned into forests, which include parasitic trees for lac insects. We have already planted seeds, which grew into small trees. We will plant more in the future.
j. Organic farm for vegetables.
k. Hand made paper production.

update : April 27, 2004 10:44 AM

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