QUANG TRI A young Van Kieu ethnic man, Ho Van Hoi, 37, in Pa Nho Village (Huong Hoa District, in the central province of Quang Tri) cannot remember how many Van Kieu and Pa Co ethnic people he has taught to weave brocades.
Growing up during a time when the traditional trade of weaving brocades is in decline, Hoi has always wondered how he could help uphold his ancestors heritage and tradition.
In the past, the clack from the looms was a common sound in Pa Nho Village. In the Van Kieu community, everybody knows about weaving. When Tet (Lunar New Year) comes, Van Kieu children like to show off their new brocade clothes, and young girls wear their most beautiful dresses and join endless celebrations for the new year.
As time went by, the consequences of war made life difficult for many people. Now, those able to weave brocades are in the single digits, and looms have been pushed into corners to collect dust.
This sad state of affairs makes Hoi toss and turn. "The traditional handicrafts guaranteed a well-paid life for the people and helped enrich the local culture. Without it, the Van Kieu will soon forget its origins and characteristics," he says.
Knowing that Huong Hoa District s organisation for women held vocational training for weaving for the Van Kieu and Pa Co people, Hoi registered to join without hesitation. Approaching the trade, Hoi showed his aptitude in weaving when he finished his first skirt after only a few weeks.
"The Van Kieu created and preserved this trade for many generations. I don t know how much I need to study to master all the secrets of my ancestors," Hoi says.
Weaving brocades requires care for every little detail. One thread put in the wrong place may ruin all of your hard work.
Looking at the way Hoi weaves, patriarch Ho Van Xang says, "I see very few people who are patient and passionate with the trade like Hoi."
Hoi weaves only when he s in the mood. Unless the mind is clean and pleased, one cannot weave well. Sitting on the loom, Hoi may forget to eat or sleep. A scarf takes two days, a shirt takes four days and a skirt takes about six days for Hoi.
Brocades of the Van Kieu usually have two leading colours, red and black. The black symbolises life while the red is the symbol for power.
"Combining two colours with others in harmony requires talent," he says.
Weaving brocades is tough, but making them soulful is much more difficult. Available patterns and models in textbooks don t satisfy him. Without creation and consulting old patterns, brocades of the Van Kieu will be similar to brocade products of the Mong and Thai ethnic people.
With these thoughts in mind, Hoi learned from elders in the village. From the old patterns he collected, Hoi created new features combined with traditional characters to weave unique brocades.
A teacher s passion
Hoi doesn t remember when people first started calling him "Brocade Hoi" or "Master Hoi". Being skilful in weaving, Hoi is always ready to instruct anyone who wants to learn.
From his first class of 25 students in Moi Village, Huong Linh Commune, Hoi has taught numerous people in different communes and districts in Quang Tri.
When teaching, Hoi recognised that many people love weaving brocades. He hopes that the trade will soon be revived. This hope encourages him to be more enthusiastic in his training.
After finishing the course, many students have become well-known artisans. Ho Thi Lan is one example.
"Master Hoi often tells us two things that I will never forget," Lan says. "The first is to put the Van Kieu ethnic group s characteristics into the brocade. The second is to share the trade with everyone you meet."
The Van Kieu brocade is cheap, but not many people know about it, Hoi says.
He is happy now that more and more Van Kieu people can weave brocade, including his wife and three young girls, even his youngest child, who is 11. VNS