Weaving through the rice fields

Image 17 of 24
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An ethnic Karen woman from Hlaingbwe, Burma/Myanmar, now living in Maela refugee camp, Thailand wearing her grandmothers hand-dyed, woven tunic. Thrty-one-year-old Ber Ber, is wearing the top her grandmother Mu Paw made for her wedding in Noh Nay village, Hlaing Bwe, township, Pa-an District, Karen State, Burma. She said: "Trying to work out when my grandmother made her wedding tunic is not easy. I don't know when she was born, when she got married, or even when she died and how old she was when she died. We never kept these dates. But I do know my mother is 57. She was my grandmother's youngest child. My grandparents had six children, each born two years apart. So they probably got married around 1940." The tunic is hand dyed with indigo and a commercially dyed pink thread. The distinctive diamond shaped design is a common motif called the 'naga' stitch, resembling the diamond pattern of a python skin. Known as the 'naga' stitch it recalls the fable of the migrant worker Saw Koh Law Lay who left his village searching for work, and his wife Naw Mu Aye who stayed at home and was captured by a python who forced her to incorporate a diamond-shaped design in her weaving. A cuckoo alerted Saw Koh Law Lay that his wife was in danger, and he returned home and secured her release in return for a drop of blood from his finger.