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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 5:36 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:33 am
Posts: 155
Location: Beijing
Here are some Wa (Va) textiles that came my way recently. I am posting them because they are a little different, some of them include warp ikat dashes. I am told that these came from Meng Lian (孟连)in Yunnan, and this attribution seems to check out in a couple of Chinese language books I looked at.

The first is a cotton skirt (partly handspun) with an interesting supplementary weft design in the center. This part has been made by laying red and blue supplementary weft in stripes from selvedge-to-selvedge, secured by the warp threads (white). The unusual feature is that the diamonds design is the warp threads rather than the supplementary weft part. The pattern is mostly not visible from the back. The second photo is a detail (from a similar but different skirt).

The second skirt is decorated with ikat dashes. This is not common in China, in fact I can't think of any other China examples apart from the Li in Hainan. The first skirt also has a single row of ikat dashes near the top and bottom edge, though this is hardly visible in the photo.

The third Wa skirt is one I bought a few years ago, it probably comes from a different village or area. I have seen a few skirts like this one, usually plain stripes, sometimes with seeds attached as in this case.


Attachments:
File comment: Wa skirt with supplementary weft band in the center. Handspun and commercial cotton, natural and synthetic dyes.
CET356-2.jpg
CET356-2.jpg [ 151.37 KiB | Viewed 3039 times ]
File comment: detail of supplementary weft decoration from another skirt, of similar type
CET343-3.jpg
CET343-3.jpg [ 143.97 KiB | Viewed 3039 times ]
File comment: Wa skirt with ikat dashes, photographed folded over. Commercial thread, indigo and synthetic dyes.
CET342-1.jpg
CET342-1.jpg [ 151.36 KiB | Viewed 3039 times ]
File comment: detail of ikat dashes
CET342-2.jpg
CET342-2.jpg [ 150.57 KiB | Viewed 3039 times ]
File comment: Wa skirt with plain stripes and seeds, handspun cotton
CET11A.jpg
CET11A.jpg [ 109.95 KiB | Viewed 3039 times ]

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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 6:17 am 
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just remembered where I have seen something similar, there is an old post on this forum discussing Wa skirts from a different region with an ikat pattern resembling fingerprints:

http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... 2d47ca8d35

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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 1:29 pm 
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Hi Chris, Very interesting skirts which I am not at all familiar with so I have a bunch of questions. First, can you tell us where Meng Lian is located in Yunnan? You call the people who live there Wa (Va) and I wonder what the difference is. Is Wa what the Chinese call these people and Va perhaps what they call themselves? Is there a V sound in Chinese?

You refer us to an older post on WA or Lawa skirts. I have several of these skirts and was told by the sellers that they were Lawa skirts. Do you think that the Lawa people of Thailand and Burma are related to the Wa of Yunnan or do they just happen to have a similar name? The unique ikat patterns, that Bill describes as being like fingerprints, were described to me as lightning patterns. They seem more unique and complicated than the simple dash patterns in your Wa skirt. I wonder if Susan ever got to see these patterns being ikated or the Lawa skirts being woven? Anyway, back to your lovely skirts!

In the first photo there seem to be dash patterns in the outer panels. Are the ones in the wide red stripes ikat? Those in the narrower red stripes might be warp float patterns but it is hard to tell without a close up photo. More info or photos would be much appreciated.

The central panel of the first skirt you describe as a supplementary weft band. Does this mean there is another, construction weft, besides the alternating red and blue wefts? I am certainly no expert on weaving techniques, being mainly interested in ikat, but it seems to me the red and blue wefts are the only weft in each weft color band. Wouldn't that mean that they are not supplementary but simply construction wefts? As you say, the wefts don't seem to be the threads that create the patterns. I wonder if the diamond patterns are a twill weave rather than supplementary weft?

The threads that carry the ikat dash patterns in the close up photo of the third skirt seem bulky and uneven compared to the adjacent threads. Might they be handspun?

What kind of patterns are between the seeds in the last skirt? Perhaps embroidery? How about the dash-like patterns in the two narrow bands on either side of the large black band? Perhaps warp floats? It looks like very fine handspun. Are the colors natural? They look natural but I wonder about the black.

Really beautiful and interesting textiles Chris! The simple dash ikat patterns and the woven, diamond motifs of the central panel in the first and second skirts remind me more of Hainan than the Lawa skirts of Thailand and Burma. It will be interesting to learn more about the Wa (Va) of Yunnan! Thanks for sharing these lovely textiles.

Best regards, MAC


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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 5:40 am 
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Hello MAC, those are some good questions, some of which I'd like to know answers to myself! Never mind, here is what i do know:

Meng Lian is along the Burmese border with Yunnan. There seem to be more Wa living in Burma than in China(?). Va is just an alternate spelling. All authors that I have consulted agree that this is the same group as the "Lawa" in Burma, though they are spread over quite a wide area, which probably accounts for the differences in styles of textiles. They speak a Mon-Khmer (Austroasiatic) language, and Susan Conway in her book on the Shan says that they migrated to their present China-Burma border location from the Chiang Mai area.

I think the Wa/Lawa attribution of those very nice skirts with the "fingerprint" ikat is probably correct, even though they do look different to the ones I posted just now. Susan Conway (in her book on the Shan) shows a skirt without ikat and a picture of two Wa women wearing skirts that she says have ikat stripes, though this is not clear in the photo. Michael Howard has a few Wa textiles in his book on textiles from Burma, though none with ikat.

In the first skirt in my post there are a few ikat dashes at the outermost edges: I am posting a detail below. I would have missed this completely if it had not been for the second skirt with ikat dashes that made me look more closely. This part of the skirt appears to be made from handspun cotton, but the supplementary weft work in the center is probably commercial cotton (much finer).

In the supplementary weft part of the first skirt, the white triangle in the detail photo is actually the back of the textile, folded over (sorry, I should have mentioned that). The back of the textile shows the "ground" weft, which is white cotton (looks the same as the warp). This is not visible at all from the front, being entirely covered by those stripes of red and blue pattern weft. The construction of this is very similar to those Run Li embroidered panels and large Li blankets described in previous posts on this forum. The weaver has worked on two sets of sheds on her loom, the lower set creating the ground weave and the upper set being used for the design, the resulting textile being a lot thicker and stronger than (eg) typical Tai supplementary weft work. Just like the Li work, part of the design is visible on the back in a faint "embossed" effect.

Your comments about similarities with the Li of Hainan are perceptive. There are two parallels (that I can see) with the techniques used in Li textiles in Hainan: the use of ikat and the distinctive supplementary weft technique. I don't think that this proves that the Wa are long lost cousins of the Li, but it is interesting nevertheless. Their ancestors might originally have been much closer together, given the migration route of the Wa.

The final skirt in my post seems to be more typical of the skirts that appear in published accounts like Susan Conway's and Michael Howard's. Yes, the patterns between the seeds are embroidered. I think it's handspun cotton with natural blue and red dyes, and synthetic black(?), with some warp patterning (tramlines and so on).

Do you have more skirts with those "fingerprint" ikat patterns? I'd love to see photos if you do.


Attachments:
File comment: detail of ikat dashes in the first skirt
CET356-1detail.jpg
CET356-1detail.jpg [ 94.83 KiB | Viewed 3000 times ]

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