Culture Culture

27/09/2022 - 15:50

Aza Kooh green brocade & new journey of Zeng weaving

Zeng weaving joins the cooperative, then becomes modern fashion… However, making ends meet on Zeng remains a preoccupation.

Tourists visiting Zeng weave

Joining the cooperative

Although not a "living witness", Mrs. Mai Thi Hop of the Ta Oi ethnic group, from Lam Dot Commune, is known by A Luoi upland people as the one who "introduces Zeng into modern fashion".

She said that when born, she saw a loom. The whole family wove Zeng. She asked for weaving, and her mom told her to strip banana sheaths for yarns, using the banana stem as beads. Day after day… After many years of practicing through trial and error, at age 15, she was able to weave a complete Zeng cloth for the first time. How happy she was! She has been attached to Zeng weaving ever since. Then she got married, and the loom also followed her to her husband's house.

Every day, after hours of hard work in the fields, Mrs. Hop makes friends with the loom. Products made are for home textiles; some are sold to Ca Tu or Pa Co people around the area.

The difficulty of weavers is therefore not weaving fast or skillfully, but having ideas to create beautiful patterns and salient colors. However, taking on the craft was also the time when Mrs. Hop felt inadequacies.

Ta Oi people have a traditional brocade-weaving craft, but they still lead a poverty-stricken life. The difficulty lies in the "output" and the craftswomen. When unable to make ends meet on looms, a huge number of skilled craftswomen "gave up the job" while the younger generation does not know it. Therefore, it is needed to gather skilled craftswomen, then teach the craft to those who do not know.

It was a coincidence that while Mrs. Hop and a friend, Ho Thi Nhan, were looking for a way to recover, there was the appearance of NAV (Norway) with training courses on Zeng. In 2004, with the approval of the local government, a Zeng weaving group in A Luoi was first born in A Dot.

Soon, after Mrs. Hop's family had moved to the town, the weaving group was upgraded to Zeng-Brocade Weaving Cooperative of A Luoi Town and now Aza Kooh Green Brocade Cooperative.

Coming into fashion

It is not difficult to incorporate Zeng weaving into the cooperative. The difficulty lies in the product consumption market and labor productivity increase. During the conversation, Mrs. Hop suddenly recalled the improved Zeng loom that, after organizing vocational training courses, Thuan Thanh Cooperative (Hue) transferred to the Zeng-Brocade Weaving Cooperative in A Luoi Town.

However, it was not a happy memory. The improved Zeng loom boosted much higher productivity, but the woven Zeng cloths were not tight, so customers, especially in Europe, took no interest in them.

Unable to focus on productivity, Ms. Hop and the Board of Directors of the cooperative had to think of many designs and patterns. It was with the thought that the Zeng cloth must be beautiful and strange that Mrs. Hop and her co-workers became acquainted with fashion designer Minh Hanh. Together, they proactively made contact and participated in exhibition and craft village fairs..

Then, on the occasion of the Hue Traditional Craft Festival 2013, A Luoi Zeng weaving artisans brought their looms down to the city. Two years later, also on this stage, for the first time, the famous beauty queens and models appeared in costumes designed from Ta Oi brocade with countless emotions.

Since then, the long trips of A Luoi Zeng have started. Also in 2015, Ta Oi brocade was given the opportunity to perform in Japan. Then came the trips to "show off" Zeng in Europe, Thailand... Called "showing off" because, according to Ms. Hop, those were the trips just to introduce and promote Zeng.

For most of the morning, Mrs. Hop passionately told me about these trips and said that they offered many benefits to preserving and developing Zeng weaving. The Japanese especially love Zeng because they feel it is close to the environment. The French are fond of the hand-woven brocade suit in red tone and with very typical myrtle patterns designed by Mrs. Hop. Japanese, European and Thai people hugely admire the double-sided beading technique on Ta Oi brocade.

Making ends meet on Zeng

At our suggestion, artisan Mai Thi Hop tried "performing" the Zeng weave. At age over 60, Mrs. Hop still showed great ingenuity.

It is known that, with the skillful hands of the weaver, a simple loom can weave over 10 different types of Zeng. Each type has a distinct characteristic. If aratang is fascinating thanks to the images of tiny beads strung into the fabric while weaving, vivat is simple with the shape of the consecutive mountains hidden in each thread…

Mrs. Hop shared, and I know that it was also Mrs. Hop's talented performances on many domestic and foreign stages that made Zeng lively, charming, and widely welcomed.

After difficult days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recently in July 2022, Ms. Hop's Aza Kooh Green Brocade Cooperative got a contract from faraway Canada, which bought 50 Zeng cloths at 500,000 VND per cloth. The partner was not too strict and only required the delivery of less-pattern and hand-woven products with the correct size of 0.7 x 1.5m per cloth.

Relating this economic contract, Ms. Hop said that making products to order required the Zeng weavers to have professionalism, creativity, and innovation.

In the past, the brocade of the Ta Oi people only had two colors: black and red with black representing water and red representing fire. Later, the people create and mix many colors such as white, yellow, pink, and green to create colorful fabrics.

Zeng product designs are also increasingly diversified to meet market demand with Zeng products (handbags, travel bags...) or Zeng fabrics (towels, curtains...).

A Luoi currently has nearly a dozen Zeng-weaving establishments, which is a good signal, but it is not easy to maintain its identity and especially to live by weaving. Mrs. Hop thoughtfully talked about how to promote products and make Zeng widely known ... in order to support 100 craftswomen who are attached to Aza Kooh Green Brocade Cooperative. The stories appear to be strange to a Zeng-weaving artisan

She then recounted how happy she felt when not long ago she welcomed a group of students from Hong Van Commune to visit Zeng weaving at the cooperative. The future of Zeng weaving belongs to the young, she said. The children must be taught to cherish the Zeng-weaving craft and know how to preserve and make wealth from the heritage left by their forefathers.

Aza Kooh is one of the traditional rituals, the traditional New Year of the Pa Co-Ta Oi people dating from the ancient times, organized to see off the old year and welcome the new year, preparing to welcome a new season, was recognized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism as the national-level intangible cultural heritage. She used the appellation of the Aza Koonh Festival to name the Zeng weaving cooperative, Mrs. Hop and her co-workers expressed their desire to associate business with preserving, conserving, and developing the traditional craft of the nation.

Story: Thuc Dan

Photo: Thuc Dan – Phan Thanh – Linh Giang