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

Part 4: ‘Hol’, A Cambodian Villager’s Art within the Natural Environment,

Part 4: ‘Hol’, A Cambodian Villager’s Art within the Natural Environment,
Processes and Techniques

Session 9

“The Cambodian Textile Culture and its Environment”

Mr. Kikuo Morimoto

Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles, Acting Director

“Cambodian Textiles: Culture and its Environment”

Project for Wisdom from Forest in Siem Reap

In the tropical monsoon climatic zone, lies the country of Cambodia. Siam Reap
is a town for the country is famous remains of the Angkor dynasty. And behind
the Angkor remains stands Mt. Kulen, which also embraces a number of other historical
remains. Here, one can sense the nature that had fostered the Angkor dynasty
over several hundred years, and the spiritual environment of Khmer culture.
This mountain has also nourished natural forests typical to the tropical monsoon
climate. Regrettably; however, the rich nature is being endangered as a result
of heavy deforestation.

The civil war, which broke out in 1970, has left deep scars on the society
and culture of Cambodia. Although peace has been gradually brought back to the
villages, this remains a much more difficult task. It is not an easy process
to restore the traditional culture once the basic structure of the society,
a conventional rice growing society that had maintained the Khmer culture, was
seriously damaged.

Silk textiles, whose restoration and revitalization of the related industries
are what the institute for Khmer traditional textiles have been committed to,
are once of the most typical modes of traditional Cambodian culture. Before
war time, cotton was raised in Cambodian villages, as well as silkworms for
producing raw silk. A complete self-sustained system of textile production was
built within the village, where everything related to the industry was available;
from raw materials for yarns, to natural dyes such as indigo or “lac” insects,
as well as wood used for tools and machines.

Of particular significance among these are the lac insects. Their nests have
been used for dyeing the red color, one that is distinctive to the Cambodian
ikat. This technique is part of the traditional wisdom of Cambodian villagers
that has been passed down from the ancestors of the Angkor period. In the past,
lacs were traded as one of the valuable goods from the forest, and were exported
to Europe during the French colonial period. In the middle of war, however,
lacs become extinct in Cambodia. To raise them, there needed to be a forest
that does not have to be of such a large size but enough to maintain the favorable
temperature for the insects. During the war, the natural environment was severely
destroyed (with its forests being no exception), thus leading to the dying out
of lacs.

The Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles is now proposing a plan: “The
Project for Wisdom from Forest” here in Siem Reap; a forest vital to the growth
of lacs. The forest has been the center of the natural environment that has
sustained the villagers’ traditional lifestyle. Bringing back a small forest
to what it once was—was the aim of this project for regenerating a traditional
forest in Siem Reap. But that is not the only goal. Our proposal also includes
establishing a modest natural dye garden; meaning plants, trees, and fruits
used as natural dye materials, to be grown in the same forest. In other words,
the project attempts to re-create a forest co-existing with human beings.

During the course of our activities in researching and restoring traditional
textiles, we have learned on various occasions that a tradition always exists
with nature. Richness in tradition cannot stand without richness in nature.
The lifestyle and culture of the peoples in this region have been supported
largely by natural forest in the tropical monsoon climate and by rice farming.
In recognition of this, we have a plan to develop our project in yet another
aspect. In the neighboring area of the “Traditional Forest”, we plan to grow
cotton and mulberry, as well as constructing a small hamlet for restoring a
range of Cambodian traditional crafts such as weaving, dyeing, bamboo work,
woodwork, pottery, and so on. One of the purposes of building this hamlet is
to convey to the next generation the abundance of traditional crafts that have
lived with these tropical forests, which are presently being endangered.

The duration of the whole scheme of “Project for Wisdom from Forest” is expected
to last 5 years. This includes the estimated time required for the seeds to
grow into saplings, and for the saplings to take shape of a forest in which
lacs can survive. In the past few years, the Institute for Khmer Traditional
Textiles has been conducting a revival project of traditional sericulture with
the Mulberry Trees Fund. We intend to make the best use of this experience in
our new attempt.

Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT)

Mr. Morimoto Kikuo, Acting Director

Session 10

“The Role of Housewives Living in Weaving Villages”

Ms. Prak Beaunamy

Student, Faculty of Archaeology, The Royal University of Fine Arts

Before my research began, I wanted to know about how housewives in a weaving
village managed their housework in order to have more free time for weaving.
I also wanted to observe the daily activities that occurred in a weaving village.
The main purpose of this study is to better understand the lifestyle of families
who live in a silk weaving village by focusing on the daily life of housewives.

The village I focused on is named Pey, which is located in Tnot commune, Bati
district, Takeo province. Pey village is about 47 kilometers from Phnom Penh,
(taking National Road number 2 and turning left at Cambak market).

The hypothesis is: "The housewives who live in a silk weaving village
have the responsibility to earn money in order to support their family".
With this hypothesis, I hoped to find out the answer to some of my questions,
which are: What is the role of those housewives? What do they do everyday to
support their family? What are the daily routines in a weaving village?

For this research, I conducted semi-structured interviews. I prepared some
questions in advance before I went to interview the housewives. During the interview,
I sometimes had to ask different questions for each housewife. The total number
of informants was 20 families.

Some of the informants weave Hol skirts or silk scarves. In other families,
the housewives are teachers. The females have different income sources, such
as the housewife who sells food in front of her house and also weaves. Some
families earn their living by repairing motorbikes or bicycles; other families
work for the government. Some housewives decide to work outside their village.

The reason why I chose 20 families who have different income sources was because
I wanted to observe the amount of their income and compare the income of the
housewife and the husband in each family.

Pey village is a traditional weaving village. They use wooden looms and weave
by hand. The housewives in a weaving village have a lot of work to do. Every
day, they do housework, take care of the children, and weave to earn money.
Running the family well is her duty. Generally, she weaves in her free time
when she has completed her housework.

Although weaving is the source of income for housewives who live in a silk
weaving village, they can only do it in their free time. In order to draw benefit
from weaving, they have to manage their free time to weave intensively and skillfully.
For example, if the housewife has a small child to look after, she can earn
only a little money from weaving because she rarely has free time. Therefore,
the amount of money earned by weaving by a housewife with small children and
a family, is not the same as a widow For a widow, the important source of income
is her weaving.

For families who live in a weaving village and the families who don’t, both
work in the rice fields. Housewives in the weaving village however, have a more
secure source of income than the wives who live in non-weaving villages. Weaving
is often inherited and passed down from their grandmothers. It means that the
daughters learn how to weave from their mothers. When these daughters get married,
they and their husbands know that weaving is another source of income which
is generated by the daughter. If she weaves intensively, she is able to get
more money from her work.

Housewives in weaving villages have a different lifestyle than housewives in
other villages. The housewives in non-weaving villages can earn money and also
have relations with other people who have different lifestyles. They have more
choices in finding different ways of earning a living.

Housewives who live in weaving villages on the other hand, rarely have the
opportunity to have relations with people outside their village. All their free
time is spent on the process of weaving at home. The housewife in a weaving
village is an important person because she is the one who perpetuates the weaving
process. She learned the work from her mother and, thereafter, teaches the work
to her daughter. This is how this skill and work has survived from one generation
to the next.

At home, the daughter can learn from her mother and do the work to earn money.
This is the benefit of weaving for young women who do not get married. When
a daughter stays at home, the mother can look after the daughter well. From
one generation to another they work, whether they can get more or less money.
Moreover, the housewives in a weaving village continue the lifestyle of a weaver
family in her village to the next generation.

In weaving villages, there is a market transaction run by middle women. There
are about four or five middle women in Pey village. Middle women buy the silk
productions from the weavers in the village and neighboring villages, and sell
those handicrafts to markets in Phnom Penh. From Phnom Penh, a middle woman
then buys silks, dyes, combs, etc. to sell to the weavers in the village.

The measurement of silk is Kali; one Kali of silk equals two kilograms. There
are two price types that the middle women sell the silk to the weavers. The
weavers who buy silk or combs on credit have to pay a higher price than the
weavers who give the money immediately. They pay when they finish weaving their

Although the village (Phum Pey) is only 47 Kilometers distance from Phnom Penh
with a variety of transportation such as a taxi, bus, moto dup (motor bike taxi),
there are not many weavers who go to Phnom Penh to buy silk themselves. In this
case when they finish weaving, they can sell their silk production to whomever
they want.

Normally, most of the weavers prefer to sell their silk production to their
middle women because when they go to sell in the market in Phnom Penh themselves,
they have to pay for transportation, eating, and residence if they stay overnight.
On the other hand, the merchants in Phnom Penh often reject their silk productions
because the merchants believe that they are leftovers. If the merchants do buy
any silk production, they choose it very carefully.

If the weavers have their own middle women in the village, they can sell their
production regularly, even though the price is not as high as if they sold directly
to the merchants in the market. Only good quality silk production can sell at
a high price.

In a weaving village, the division of labor is more clearly divided than in
other non-weaving villages. In non-weaving villages, the men and women do the
same work such as collecting fire wood, pumping water for everyday use, plowing
and harrowing the fields. In weaving villages, however, it is rare to see housewives
doing these kinds of tasks. The husband does the above mentioned work and his
wife spends more time on the loom. In the case a family does not have male labor,
weaving is still the main work of these housewives. To run her family well,
she earns money from weaving and pays for the required male labor.


update : September 13, 2004 2:59 PM

del.icio.us it! del.icio.us it! Digg it! digg it! StumbleUpon StumbleUpon it!

<< Abstract Part 3: Cambodian Textile and Khmer and Cham Culture |
Related articles