Handicraft is an important part of a country’s culture. It’s linked to its daily life, its history and its people. Northern Laos is still a rural area; thus, several objects are still homemade by local tribes. Bamboo baskets, silk scarves, mulberry paper are few examples of these very rich ethnic traditions. How do they make it? How it’s linked to their daily life? Why do they keep doing it whereas it’s not needed anymore? How is this science transmitted? So many questions that we will answer. As it’s not our field of knowledge, we asked for help from experts. In this article, we focus on bamboo weaving with Somsay of Bamboo Experience. Enjoy the reading!
Sabaidee Somsay. Can you briefly introduce Bamboo Experience to us ?
The Bamboo Experience is a local family-run business, establishes by a Local for the Locals. Our mission is to preserve the tradition and bamboo culture of the Laotian that passed down for many decades. Our tour is committed to sustainable & responsible tourism practices, and we work closely with local Villagers in Ban Nasang.
What kind of objects can you make using bamboo? What are they used for?
Bamboo is a miracle plant on the planet, fast growing and easy generation plant. The versatility of bamboo is “culm” for housing, furniture, handicraft products, tools, musical instrument, paper and clothes etc. “shoot” for foods such as “soup of bamboo shoot” “stuffed bamboo shoot with mince pork” and many more…
What is the process to weave bamboo? Any specific tool required?
There are about 45 to 60% of bamboo forests in Laos, Local people just harvest bamboo from the forest for their handicraft products. Traditionally local people use the knife and saw for cutting to split the bamboo strips for weaving purposes. Bamboo strips need to dry on the sun a bit then smooth it before weaving. It’s quite a time consuming!
Have you seen an evolution in the way of using handicraft from bamboo? Modern technic? Modern use?
Absolutely, bamboo is very versatile. You can design your environmentally-friendly products out of bamboo in the old and/or modern fashion. There are needs of bamboo product in the hospitality and tourism business sectors nowadays and the future.
Do you use a particular type of bamboo? Where can you find it?
There are thousands of bamboo species so different area uses different bamboo species based on availability in the area, commonly local Lao people use “Mai Bong” “Mai Phai” and “Mai Phang” for weaving baskets, sticky rice containers, hats and many more…
Is bamboo weaving specific to a particular area of Laos? Or a certain ethnic group?
Local Lao people use bamboo for weaving throughout the country, however it tends to be more people working as bamboo Weaver in Houaphan, Vientiane provinces as well as the far south. Different group has different technic and skills of making their products.
Have you seen the interest about handicraft increasing from tourists in the past few years?
Certainly, at the Bamboo Experience. We found Tourists pay their attention and appreciation about bamboo handicraft products and weaving method because many countries in west have lost their old handicraft culture, so it creates value for them to see and put their hands-on while attending in our workshop.
How is this craft transmitted from elders to youngers?
There is no school for bamboo weaving in Laos, however the bamboo weaving method and motif have been taught through next generations i.e father to son and son to grandson.
What kind of activity/workshop do you offer to share this knowledge?
At the Bamboo Experience we offer an authentic cultural workshop which combines of Bamboo weaving and Cooking class. We love to share our passion about bamboo handicraft and local foods “bamboo themed dishes” two sessions per day either morning and/or evening. If you want to participate in on of our workshop contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook or have a look to our website bambooexprience.org
We would like to thank Somsay of Bamboo experience for all these details. It’s so pleasant to hear an expert talking about what he loves. We hope that, through this article, you have learnt a lot about this particular type of handicraft. And if you are curious about pottery, silk weaving, or mulberry paper making, stay tuned !
Moreover, if you want us to organize your trip in Laos and make you discover local culture, feel free to contact us. See you soon.