In this edition of SEAtizens, we feature The Thai ethnic group from northwest Vietnam, who keep the tradition of cloth dyeing alive with the use of indigo plants.
The group primarily resides in the northwest part of Vietnam, where dyeing is a well known custom especially among the ethnic groups in the area. Textile dyeing is a way for the groups to preserve their unique culture and heritage. They use different plants, trees and other resources available to them which allows them to express their love for their environment and crafting intricate designs reflecting their culture.
In a study by Auemporn Junsongduang and her colleagues, they found that typically, plants and tree barks followed by different species of shrubs and herbs. Moreover, they also source various species of flowers, stems, whole plant roots and seeds to extract colorants for their dyes. Most of the flowers also collected were from community grown gardens, which makes this accessible to those interested in crafting dyed textile.
There are many ways to make dyes but what is unique about this Thai group is their use of indigo plants which makes the colors of the textile and clothes mimic the color of jeans.
The Thai ethnic group uses indigo plants to dye their customary clothing. They usually craft their traditional costumes composed of a cropped shirt, skits, scarves, sarongs and other accessories. Similar to other ethnic groups, their clothing depends on their stance in society whether they are young or older, and even married or unmarried. While making these clothes the color and intensity of the dye depends on substantial environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and other natural occurrences..
This tradition of The Thai group, using indigo plants to this day promotes dyeing clothing with sustainability in mind.
This is a common custom to many ethnic groups around the world as an intricate art that requires skills of handcrafting. Moreover, this is an amazing way to preserve a community’s culture and customs keeping in mind our roots attached to our environment.
This story leaves us a reminder of our roots as well and how nature provides us with so many resources to gain inspiration from.
Tourists may catch a glimpse of their culture in The Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, where a permanent station showcasing artifacts dedicated to the Thai ethnic group can be viewed.
For more Southeast Asian stories, visit seawavemag.com.
Note: Vietnam news’s story on The Thai’s indigo dyeing was used as a reference material in this article.
Featured image by RÉHAHN.