Interviews with Cham Weavers
Danica and Khuê had the opportunity to interview a few local Cham weavers in My Nghiep Village. Here is what they found out.
We met Mrs. Diem at Inrahani Culture Centre, mentioned in our blog post about My Nghiep Village. She is the daughter of Mrs. Trao who we also interviewed and recorded. She has been living in My Nghiep Village since she was born and was taught how to weave by her mother at the age of ten. Below are some interesting facts she shared with us about Cham culture and weaving.
- At first, she learnt how to spin the thread and other loom preparation skills for five years. During this time, she also learned how to set up a loom according to specific patterns. They name each thread by numbers and young trainees will set up the loom by following an elder’s instructions.
- It takes a day to set up a loom because they have to manually pull up and down every single string.
- They can make one hundred and twenty meters of brocade each month.
- Cham weavers use two different materials for weaving brocade; the background is made from cotton and the pattern is made from silk or sometimes glitter thread.
- After five years of training, Mrs. Diem started to practice weaving on the “long loom” (small size brocade making).
- At the age of seventeen to eighteen, she practiced “short loom” (large size brocade making), which required her to sit flat on the floor. Weaving with this loom is more difficult than weaving with the short loom.
- Mrs. Diem can weave four meters of brocade per day with normal patterns. For more complicated patterns, such as a bird or Shiva, it requires two weavers at the same time to weave only one meter per day.
- In the past, local Cham people made silk and cotton themselves by breeding silkworm and dying it with natural materials picked up from the jungle. Nowadays, they buy thread from factories in Ho Chi Minh City, ship to the village, weave brocade, then either sell the weaves locally or ship back to Mrs. Hani’s store in the city.
- Scarves for older ladies are wrapped around their heads and are usually hard texture and decorated with glitter thread.
- Younger lady scarves are wrapped around their necks and are usually soft and made from cotton and silk.
- In the past, Cham people collected coral that weighed the same from the beach in order to balance the thread when they weaved. Mrs. Diem described the coral moving up and down as beautiful music. Now they use cement or small sand bags.
Mrs. Ha Thi Nga
We met Mrs. Nga when we walked into the My Nghiep weaving workshop. She was one of two weavers who were weaving at the time, as the rest of the women were out tending to the rice fields. She happened to be doing one of the hardest motifs, Shiva, which requires two weavers to weave at a time. She was born in the village and learned how to weave at age ten, like Mrs. Diem, by her mother. She shared with us that:
- She too first learned how to spin thread and then weaved plain brocade for several years.
- Then she learned how to weave on long loom, then short loom and finally two weavers loom.
- It take two weavers and one working day to make five Shiva squares.
- Every Cham house has at least one loom given by the elder women in the family.
Mrs. Thuan Thi Trao
We met Mrs. Trao in the retail section of the weaving workshop. She was willing to let us record her talking about Cham traditions. She is Inra Hani‘s younger sister and responsible for managing the workshop. Like Mrs. Diem and Mrs. Nga, she too was born in the village. She learned how to weave at the age of twelve from her mother. She shared with us that:
- Her family has the oldest two weaver looms in the village. They have been passed down ten generations!
- She wants to keep their traditional jobs, as a weaver, because their ancestors passed it down to them.
- Mrs. Trao’s ordinary day starts from 6:00 AM. She wakes up, spins thread, prepares for the weaving and weaves until 10:30 AM. Then she goes to the local market to buy fresh ingredients, cooks lunch, does housework and takes a break until 1:30 PM. After that, she continues weaving until 5:00 PM.
- The meaning of the Shiva pattern is to represent the Hindu Deity. He flies on a magical peacock holding two magical torches and brings health, wealth and luck to people. Cham people believe anyone keeping the Shiva brocade will receive Shiva’s blessing. Only experienced weavers can weave the Shiva pattern.
- The diamond and dog footprints on the sand pattern are the orginals. They also create new modern patterns, such as yellow apricot flowers and dot patterns.
- In the past, everybody wore homemade traditional clothes. Now majority wear Vietnamese clothes.
- In the past, Cham people were very poor, they usually ate a kind of soup mixed with grained rice and vegetables picked from the jungle. They no longer eat that soup.
- They dress those who have passed in five different traditional, white suits, as white is the color for funerals. Traditionally, they buried dead people in the same day when they died after some very simple rituals. After several years, they took the bodies out of the ground and celebrated a big official funeral. Everybody is invited and they have a celebration for three days and three nights.