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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 8:58 am 
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Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 10:08 am
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Location: Bangkok
Hello everyone!

I'm a novice weaver who is living in Bangkok, Thailand. A few weeks ago I was up in Laos and saw this textile at the Talat Chaaw market. It's extremely long, coming in at around 5 meters in length. I can tell the fiber is hand spun and the piece is handwoven. The piece consists of about 7 panels picturing a big cat of some sort (maybe a tiger?) with elaborate borders in between each picture. The only colors are white, pale yellow, pale green, deep purple and hot pink. I'm positive the pink and purple are chemical dyes, but I'm not sure about the other colors. The warp is black.

The weight of the yarn is quite thick, it almost feels like a flat rug. The quality of weaving isn't great, I see a lot of mistakes and there are spots where the weaving isn't tight. Every panel featuring a big cat is unique, and the last panel in the series (the pink/purple cat) is squeezed and the picture looks distorted. There are also 2 phrases in what I assume is Vietnamese. I tried to google translate one and I came up with "Eternal dream" or "Short dream"

So, I'm a little lost. I initially thought that since it was woven in one go it was going to be cut up later. But I'm not sure why it never was cut, and I can't find a good part of the piece that could be cut without destroying the design.

My current theory is that it was a practice piece done by someone due to all of the mistakes and the constant variation in design from panel to panel. I don't know anything about tribal textiles though, so I wanted to post here!

Apologies for the quality of the pictures, I took them using my computer's webcam as I don't own a camera.


Attachments:
File comment: This is the end/beginning of the piece before the panels begin.
Ends.jpg
Ends.jpg [ 58.36 KiB | Viewed 4216 times ]
File comment: The brightest panel!
Pink and Purple.jpg
Pink and Purple.jpg [ 69.76 KiB | Viewed 4216 times ]
File comment: One of the borders between the panels
interim border.jpg
interim border.jpg [ 68.07 KiB | Viewed 4216 times ]
File comment: One of the woven phrases
Text 1.jpg
Text 1.jpg [ 58.34 KiB | Viewed 4216 times ]
File comment: Mirror image of big cat (Tiger?)
double cats.jpg
double cats.jpg [ 61.41 KiB | Viewed 4216 times ]
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 8:57 pm 
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Hi Nickie

Welcome to the forum! So good to finally see your mystery textile - and to me it definitely is a mystery textile! Very interesting that the 'tigers' - and, yes, they do look like tigers to me too (or are those leopard spots or tiger stripes ?) - are woven pictorially lengthwise down the weaving. I would have expected them to be across the warp not down it.

It almost looks like a banner which would be stretched across an entrance or similar - across rather than hanging down. That is only a gut comment not, sadly, one based on specific knowledge.

It is possible that someone might recognise it immediately or this could be one of those long-term mysteries! You have set us an interesting challenge!

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 12:58 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 12:56 am
Posts: 17
Location: Canberra, Australia
Hi Nickie, Pamela is spot-on. It is indeed a banner for rituals. Many of the earlier examples (first half 20th century) are said to have been used in monasteries but I have been informed that they are also used for birthdays and weddings although I have no written sources to validate this. They have a name but I don't have that easily to hand, will post again when I find my notes. I have one in cotton and silk but I have seen them in cotton alone. The big cat seems to be a constant motif and most that I have seen would appear to be stylised tigers.Cheers, Jim.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:21 am 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hi Nickie- As already mentioned, you have a ceremonial banner. In Thailand they are called 'tung' and are made of carved wood, as well as fabric. They can be used outside, along a road or at a specific site, or can be found inside temples where they are specially made and donated to make merit. Yours, however, is from Vietnam and is made by one of the Tai groups there. The letters are the cue, as the ones from Laos do not seem to include letters.

The Tai groups in Vietnam are virtually the same as across the border in Laos (tho their names differ), and have an almost identical textile repertoire, but there are some differences in motifs and technique. This banner is a good example. In Laos, a long banner is typically used for funerals and has very different motifs than yours. If it's silk, it is usually red from lac; if cotton, it's indigo (below). In one village/area of Vietnam they make a very unique funeral banner in cotton and silk that is woven in an unusual technique employing a compound weaving structure (I'll defer to the weavers on the forum to discuss the technical issues of this textile). Your banner could be used as a funeral banner in a certain area, but I do not know for sure. The tiger may be a 'vehicle' to the other world... These textiles are usually very meaningful in the use of motifs. I have had smaller panels with a tiger or two, but do not know what they are used for other than as wall decoration.


Attachments:
File comment: Lao Silk Funeral Banner
TTF-TAL374.jpg
TTF-TAL374.jpg [ 44.09 KiB | Viewed 4157 times ]
File comment: Lao Cotton Funeral Banner
TTF-TAL284.jpg
TTF-TAL284.jpg [ 30.33 KiB | Viewed 4157 times ]
File comment: Funeral Banner from Vietnam made with compound weave
TTF-TAL214.jpg
TTF-TAL214.jpg [ 122.76 KiB | Viewed 4157 times ]

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Susan Stem

http://www.tribaltrappings.com
http://tribaltrappings.blogspot.com/
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:28 am 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Nickie-
I just re-read your post and caught your translation of the lettering as "eternal dream". This would certainly suggest the use as being a funeral banner, no? Usually, these banners are hung lengthwise from a long bamboo pole, sometimes with bird figures on top, and put outside the home of the deceased, and/or at the cremation/grave site.

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Susan Stem

http://www.tribaltrappings.com
http://tribaltrappings.blogspot.com/


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:10 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 12:56 am
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Location: Canberra, Australia
Tung.... that was the word that I was looking for. Thanks Susan. I am intrigued by your attribution of these banners to a Vietnamese origin. Can you expand on this as I haven't yet been able to find much information on these textiles? The person that I bought mine from was a former Australian diplomat in Laos who was told that it was a Laotian piece. The only other similar examples that I can find (that have an attribution) are described as "ceremonial banner - Tai Moy group, Xiang Koauang Province, Laos."
I asked the current owner for any other details known about their history and was told that they were "from a temple in Louang (Luang) Prabang ....used for weddings and holiday parades." I am not familiar enough with the Tai groups, their history or location so would appreciate your thoughts and observations. Will attempt to post photos soon.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:22 pm 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hi Jim- Well, this is a very complex geographic area in which to study textiles, and the question of attribution is not easy. For this particular piece, however, it is not so difficult: as I said, the letters are the key. Laos uses an alphabet similar to Thailand, based on Sanskrit. Vietnam has a romanized alphabet, evidently since the 17th century. Other cues seem to be colors: the Tai in Vietnam tend to use the colors Nickie mentioned this textile as having. Simple stripes separating motifs also tend to be used in Vietnam. For these reasons I really doubt that this piece could have come from Luang Prabang, or even Laos.

All that being said, however, there is much ebb and flow of culture in this region. The rivers cross the borders and the people have used them for trade and the sharing of ideas and knowledge for a long time. I have not visited this part of Laos, or Vietnam, but I have been discussing this particular conundrum of textile origin with a local expert and have learned that attribution can be difficult if the textile is not collected in the field by a knowledgeable researcher who has spent time there. The history of a given textile often becomes muddied when it becomes a commodity.

I think this is an area ripe for research. No documentation that I've found has adequately addressed the complexity of relationships between the Lao and Vietnamese Tai groups along this border.

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Susan Stem

http://www.tribaltrappings.com
http://tribaltrappings.blogspot.com/


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:25 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 10:08 am
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Location: Bangkok
You guys are all pretty amazing, it only took a few posts to figure it out.

Susan, I just attempted to translate the other line and I got "Grief sessions" followed by "Eternal/short dreams". So, my bet is also on funeral banner. Maybe "grief session" is "mourning period"?

First line: nhưn buổi đấu buôn (Grief sessions)
Second line: giấc mộng ngan thu (Short or eternal dream)

I'm not familiar with Vietnamese, and the woven text is hard to read. I'll try to consult a Vietnamese speaker and report back.

Is it usual for these Tai ethnic groups to speak Vietnamese? I assumed they spoke their own dialect or a separate language.

I've also taken more photos in order to show all of the panels, but it's late tonight so I'll re-size the photos tomorrow and post back. There's quite a bit of symbolism and I don't understand much of it. Do these banners communicate an evolving series of emotions about the dead, or do they tell a story? Religiously, are these banners typically Buddhist or animist? A mixture?

Can I assume that since the weaving isn't professional quality that it was done by a grieving family member?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:58 am 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Nickie-
Lots of good questions! I cannot answer them all, but can only give my thoughts:

Re language: they probably do speak their own dialect, but if they go to government schools, which is likely, they will probably learn Vietnamese. I know this is true here in Thailand- the hilltribe children who go to government schools learn Thai, but may speak their tribal language in their home villages; it's also the case among the Tai, who might speak a local dialect at home. Maybe someone who has spent time in this area could answer this better.

I don't know either if these groups are Buddhist, animist or both. It may vary from village to village. (Actually, according to Patricia Cheesman's fine work on Lao-Tai textiles, a more relevant term would be 'shamanistic', rather than animist.) Typically, I would expect the symbolism to relate to the journey to the other world. In the indigo cotton banner I posted the main motif is known as a 'lantern' and is to light the way to the spirit realm. This motif is often used on shamanic textiles. Buddhist textiles would probably have the mythological beasts from the Himmaphan forest. There isn't much information on this type of textile, but if I come across anything I'll post it.

I have no idea of the circumstances under which this might have been woven. My understanding is that usually they are heirlooms in the family, so I would think they would be carefully woven. At least in my experience the ones from Laos are finely woven and made of good materials. Sometimes they are cut in half, supposedly to satisfy handing it down to two different heirs, tho I'm not totally sure about this.

Do post your photos- it would help to see more.

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Susan Stem

http://www.tribaltrappings.com
http://tribaltrappings.blogspot.com/


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:01 am 
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Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 10:08 am
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Location: Bangkok
Thanks Susan! That's all really interesting. Funeral banners remind me a little bit of Western mourning quilts from the 19th century. As far as textiles being part of the mourning process, an heirloom, and having a display function.


Attachments:
File comment: Final panel in the series. The poor cat is quite squished compared to the other panels. It looks condensed.
Panel 7.jpg
Panel 7.jpg [ 100.67 KiB | Viewed 4056 times ]
File comment: Panel 6 with an elaborate border
Panel 6.jpg
Panel 6.jpg [ 90.92 KiB | Viewed 4056 times ]
File comment: 4th and 5th panels.
Panel 4 and 5.jpg
Panel 4 and 5.jpg [ 84.88 KiB | Viewed 4056 times ]
File comment: This is the 3rd panel in the series.
Panel 3.jpg
Panel 3.jpg [ 109.56 KiB | Viewed 4056 times ]
File comment: This is the first and second panel of the banner. The first panel are two mirror-image cats facing each other.
Panel 1 and 2.jpg
Panel 1 and 2.jpg [ 100.16 KiB | Viewed 4056 times ]
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