Man/Woman Healing Cloth


Artist: Nang Tiip
Houaphan Province, Laos
Presented by Above the Fray: Traditional Hilltribe Art

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This textile is made from village-raised, hand-reeled silk, naturally dyed, and handwoven on a hand-built loom in Houaphan Province, Laos. The weaver is Nang Tiip, a late 40s’s year old Lao Loum woman, who has been weaving since she was young.

These healing cloths are traditionally used in ceremonies addressing fertility and the balance of the male and female spirits, from humans to a rice field that is not producing well. Additionally, when folded in half lengthwise, it can be used as a shoulder cloth for Lao women to wear to temple, and for use during special ceremonies or wedding.

The dyes used include lac (red), annatto (orange), maak lin mai (olive green – it is from the huge seed pod of a large tree), the bark from the Duabanga-grandiflora (copper – tree named Kor Ben in Lao), indigo soaked for 4 days and then limestone added (light and dark teal), Duabanga-Grandiflora overdyed with dirt from the burned rice fields (black – soaked in dirt for 4 days and 3 nights) and forest green that has many methods of being achieved (often dyed in haem or climbing turmeric then overdyed in indigo).

The motifs are mythological creatures that are spiritually protective, and include mythological river serpents in many iterations, including small curled tailed, two-headed with triangle heads, diamond and crested heads, and pregnant with multicolored flowers. There are also ancestor spirits in the center diamonds (which can represent lanterns to light the way to the spirit world). The border contains butterflies and two headed mythological river serpents that could either be baby serpents, serpents with scales, pregnant serpents, or draught serpents to help encourage rain – all depending on the intention of the weaver and the interpretation within the village and the ethnic group.

The design of the textile has horizontal pattern stripes that represent a ladder so when a shaman is using the textile, she or he can call to the spirit world with the aid of the mythological creatures in the textile and bring an ancestor spirit to help with the healing who climbs up the “ladder” woven in the textile and together, the shaman and the ancestor spirit chase the evil spirit creating problems down the ladder and away.

Dimensions: 16.75” X 99”

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