Written by Zhang Yunfei
Miao weaving and other handicraft has a great cultural significance and is associated with Miao women’s labor. However, due to recent swift urbanization and the consolidation of rural schools, many Miao kids have been away from home attending boarding schools from an early age, and have little opportunity to learn Mao handicraft. Many young Miao women have left their villages to work in the cities. More and more young people are forgetting their handicraft traditions, which motivated some elderly to propose to save the traditional weaving techniques. With Zigen’s support, a weaving group was set up in Nanmeng Village, Leishan County. It currently has twenty one people.
The weaving group has paid visits to the county town and out of county locations to learn weaving techniques. Last September, I and two women from the Nanmeng weaving group travelled to Gaopa and Nongwang Villages of Rongjiang County to learn dyeing techniques.
When we arrived, it was already passed the busiest dyeing season. Luckily, we still found some family working on dyeing. The two Nanmeng women started to learn on the spot, asking questions about the making of natural indigos used in the dyeing process. The local women taught them how to use eggs as an ingredient, and how to beat the cloth to make them sturdier. Some families even showed their own clothes to us and let us try them on. It was a fruitful trip as we were back with purchases for dyeing. What we had learned during our trip was shared to other women in Nanmeng Village.
What I like most about the Nanmeng women is their optimism, even though they have a hard life. Just like what a volunteer wrote: “I have a lot of fondness and respect for the simple things that are produced with enormous amount of labor. They are like the minority clothes and songs. They taught us what the real needs in life are, and what a respectable life is.”