They wore traditional handmade brocade costumes of the Pa Cô and Vân Kiều ethnic minority groups on their recent wedding day instead of wearing the more popular Vietnamese áo dài (long dress).
Groom Hồ Quang Năng from A Bung Commune in the central province of Quảng Trị’s Đakrông District said since the craft had been revived some years ago, local people including authorities and students wore brocade clothing more often than before in an effort to preserve the tradition left by their ancestors.
The art had been on the edge of extinction with youngsters preferring to wear modern, designer clothes, even on special days such as weddings or new year holidays, Năng said.
Brocade artisan Hồ Văn Hồi weaves a Pa Cô and Vân Kiều costume.
Before 2017, most looms were left covered in dust and spider webs. A Bung Commune is considered the birthplace of the art of the Pa Cô and Vân Kiều ethnic minorities.
Thanks to efforts by local authorities, all Government employees have been asked to wear brocade uniforms every Monday and local and national celebrations such as the New Rice Festival and New Year holidays, Hồ Văn Hiền, deputy chief of the commune, said.
“Visiting the commune, you will see women weaving colourful brocade. We have a close connection with the looms because we’ve been around them since we were kids, adding that a Pa Cô girl traditionally makes her own wedding dress from brocade.
The job provides colourful brocade for everyday use and is considered the soul of the Pa Cô people.
To weave a run of 1.5m by 2m takes 3-5 days, plus 2-3 days to transform it into a traditional costume.
“Each design is a result of the hard work and sentiment of the maker groups express the rustic, and simple life in remote A Bung Commune in the Trường Sơn Range. Men’s costumes are colourful with many patterns while women’s clothes are black with detailed patterns.
There are a dozen of costumes for different people such as a young girls, women carrying their children to work in the fields, young men going to join festivals, a date between a young couple under the moon, and elderly men and women sitting around the rượu cần (wine jar) swaying their heads to traditional music on an instrument called the ta lư and their own folk songs during festivals.
Customers check out Pa Cô and Vân Kiều brocade
Handing the job to young people
Mrs Nga recalled a story: “The first time I entered my husband’s house I saw a loom in the corner of the kitchen. My mother-in-law said most people had stopped making brocade because it didn’t sell well.
“I told myself I should try to revive the craft to express my love for my husband’s homeland by travelling to the district market to buy materials such as colourful yarns. It took me two days to weave a delicate bag that earned me a lot of compliments from my mother-in-law and neighbours. Since then, many people including young girls in the commune have signed up to learn how to weave with me. I’m very happy,” she said.
Nga’s fame has spread far and wide. Locals in other remote areas of Thừa Thiên-Huế and Quảng Bình have invited her to teach them how to weave brocade.
“Thanks to support from my husband, who helps me with my homework and raises our children, I can devote my time to teaching young enthusiasts. I remember one day when I returned home after a long trip, I found my young daughter weaving brocade. She told me that she often sat at the loom when she missed me,” Mrs. Nga said.
Another woman named Kăn Mèo from the commune’s Ti Nê Hamlet recalled: “When our looms were in storage we were very sad, thinking that maybe we would no longer see our young people wearing our traditional brocade costumes. Thanks to the determination of local authorities, our job has been revived and developed, bringing us a stable monthly income and more importantly, still satisfying our desire to hand it down to the next generations.”
At a traditional festival held recently in the district, a display of brocade items and looms of the Pa Cô and Vân Kiều lured large numbers of visitors.
Currently, brocade costumes were available at trade fairs not only in Quảng Trị but also in other provinces and abroad, according to Hiền, deputy chief of the commune.
Đakrông District has three communes specializing in weaving traditional brocade costumes of the Pa Cô and Vân Kiều.
Hiền said since the craft had been revived and developed, local people were happy to see more people wearing brocade, including students.
Hồ Thị Kim Cúc, deputy chairwoman of the district, said to protect and preserve this cultural identity, they would call on domestic and foreign organisations to co-operate and support brocade weaving households to develop the trade’s potential.