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

A piece of black cloth

When I expected to spend a quiet holidays because half of PWF villagers went back to their hometowns during Cambodian New Year holidays, I received a visit of my well-known friend at PWF. As a result of it, I have been involved in talking with my friend for whole 3 days.

We had similar experience in talking for whole 3 days when Asian Kasuri road festival was held at Haebaru-cho of Okinawa prefecture in November 2000. Since then, we have met once a year and spent talking together.

When I was a trainee of hand-made Yuzen dyeing at Kyoto, I liked to browse artistic books at the bookstore "Kyoto Shoin" at the center of Kyoto downtown. At that time, the extra binding book in the box was too expensive for me because my salary was only equal to pocket money.

There was one Japanese magazine named "Senshoku to Seikatsu" which means dyeing and weaving with life, on the expensive dyeing and weaving books shelf. I still remember I found one article of the first issue of the Japanese magazine. It was by his article introducing the dyeing and weaving of Timor of Indonesia.
It was in early 1970's. Still I keep this magazine at my PWF house book shelf.

And there was curious coincidence, when I visited to one professor at National Museum of Ethnology at Senri Expo Park of Osaka prefecture, I happened to meet him. At that time, he was busy to prepare to go researching at Indonesia.
At that time, I myself started the project related to villager's textiles work in Thailand in 1980's.

In the middle of 1990's, I set up the small project of growing silkworms at Kampot village following the start of Cambodia UNESCO investigation, I have spent days and nights to revive the textile's technique of old days together with Takeo province elderly women weavers. At that time perhaps he was visiting for the textiles various fields of all over the world. His journey has been continuing even now to find out the textiles histories and skills of fascinating such mysterious textiles world.

This time we talked about the tools of making mat that were found at Jomon period remains and those fibers and colors on the historical side, and the conversation expands geographically wide on the other side about Mediterranean Sea and South America, and Southeast Asia that could be said as the textile roots from Indonesia, and clothes of East Asian like China and Japan, additionally West Asia, Central Asia and Africa. Our talking went endless.

I have opportunities to meet several world's researchers and collectors related to dyeing and weaving as my job. But I have never met such person like him who did researches and studies visiting the places of all over the world himself. In many cases the researches and studies are usually limited to particular places and textiles.

In case of me, I am interested in the mysterious story of yellow raw silk of Cambodia as material relating to Cambodian textiles, additionally to try to find the mystery of derivation of the unique Cambodian textile, a silk ikat in a 2/1 twill. And I get really involved in the wonderful world imagination through such textiles.

This time when I talked with him, looking at the very heavy but fine figured black color cloth dyed by persimmon ebony makleua (Diospyros mollis) that one elderly woman wore who I met during my research in 1995. While we were talking about her family and detail of wearing tools of this cloth, I felt sure her family came from Cambodian ethnic minority Kuay. That feeling was backed up by his past experiences.

I had looked for the Kuay weavers around 1996. The Kuay people have been called Forest People in Cambodia since Angkor periods and they were also very famous as the elephant trainer. Such people have their own traditional textile world. The tradition has been barely inherited at northeast of Thailand. In Cambodia the Kuay people's villages has been almost disappeared under the local war, but their handloom and tools have characteristic feature. While I talked with him about Kuay village in Thailand, checking again the black crest figured cloth, I found Cambodian Kuay weaver's world in the textile.

There is an unique big Niddy-Noddy to make skein. I saw the tool at this elderly woman's house. I had something on my chest the tool was the same as Thai Kuay people's tool. That was different from Khmer and Lao people's one. I checked it again by photo with him and we had no doubt about it.

The woman died several years ago. Her family gave me the cloth she always wore as remembrance. Glowing silkworms and reeling raw silks, further the technique was unique that reeling high quality raw silks on her barefoot knees, it was such her remembrance. We had a sigh in front of such wonderful textile.

The other day one of the Cambodian Royal Princess visited to PWF. We showed her several old textiles. This textile was included among other textiles. Princess took it and said she remembered it. She said her mother also wore the same touch black cloth.

The old weaver who created such wonderful textiles is not alive now. I want to produce this textile at PWF. It is so difficult though I want to create some day. It is one of my highest hurdles.

The talking on this textile might be the biggest achievement during 3 days New Year holidays this year. It is my assurance and it could be said a discover.

Our conversation developed to changing of looms' figure and those varieties. He suggests the possibilities that the looms of the minority people of Yunnan province in China might be the origin of Cambodian loom. And our conversation continued to go down Mekong River, South China Sea and even Palembang of Sumatra. And continue to another famous Cambodian weavers Cham people.

update : February 17, 2010 10:40 AM

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