Exploring a Cham Weaving Village in the Mekong Delta
After several weeks of designing our first Wild Tussah bag and communicating with local artisans, it was time to visit one of Vietnam’s Cham weaving villages in Chau Doc on the edge of the Mekong Delta. This trip coincided with a reunion with my partner’s Aussie family, so he joined me on my first Cham adventure.
A Warm Welcome from Chau Doc
Once our bus pulled into Chau Doc, we set up a tour and booked a boat ride across the Mekong River, through a floating fish farm to the Cham weaving village. Ms. San, our tour guide, seemed to know everyone we met along the way. We were welcomed with bright smiles and eager waves of ‘hello’. To get from boat to land, we had to walk a dodgy ‘monkey bridge’ that tested our ability to balance along narrow wooden planks held up with flimsy branches. Being vertically challenged, I hung on tightly to the tiny railings until I came across a group of fire ants. At that point I realized I was on my own to make it back to solid ground.
The 100-Year-Old Loom
Ms. San introduced us to an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Muhammad. They showed us around their outside deck which homed the loom inherited from Mrs. Muhammad’s grandmother. It had been used for over 100 years! They were nice enough to let me sit down and have a try; managing to hide any worry they had that I might break their heirloom.
Along the deck’s perimeter were colorful woven scarves, sarongs and head wraps. Ms. San and the old Cham couple were mostly just interested in laughing at us trying on the weaves, so we entertained them for a few minutes, bought a couple weaves for Wild Tussah and continued through the village.
See a Loom in Motion
After walking a couple meters we came across another weaver who was much younger. Here’s a quick video of her creating a long white and black weave:
Until Next Time
We continued on through the village and came across a family preparing for a wedding ceremony, children swimming in the river, goats being herded from boat to land by a 4-year-old and lots of fruits and vegetables I’ve never seen before.
Best of all, Ms. San showed us a game she used to play as a kid. It involved picking a lotus seed and banging it off of someone else’s forehead to make a loud ‘pop’ sound; I ended up being the one to lend my forehead!
The goal of this trip was to connect with the local weavers in the southern part of Vietnam and find some special patterns to incorporate in more versions of The Day to Night Bag. And I did just that! Thanks Chau Doc for a great experience; you were lovely!
My next Cham weaving village visit will be in September when I go north with Khuê, Wild Tussah’s Translator and Administrative Assistant, to visit the My Nghiep village in Ninh Phuoc district. We will be sharing weaver’s stories and capturing their techniques on the loom.
x Danica, Wild Tussah Founder