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Weaving Check Scarves: A Cultural Heritage of the Mekong Delta

CEO Tinh Phung
ICONIC FABRIC: Phạm Thanh An, a resident of Long Khánh A Commune, folds check scarves to prepare for delivery. VNA/VNS Photo Nhựt An Tourists exploring the picturesque southwestern region of Vietnam will undoubtedly notice the...

Weaving Check Scarves ICONIC FABRIC: Phạm Thanh An, a resident of Long Khánh A Commune, folds check scarves to prepare for delivery. VNA/VNS Photo Nhựt An

Tourists exploring the picturesque southwestern region of Vietnam will undoubtedly notice the distinctive check scarves adorning the locals. These scarves, worn by both men and women, not only serve a practical purpose but also represent the rich cultural heritage of the Mekong Delta. For generations, the skilled weavers of Long Khánh A Commune in Đồng Tháp Province have perfected the craft of creating these beautiful scarves.

A Tradition Woven in History

Looming Deadline LOOMING DEADLINE: A local woman is seen working by a loom weaving colourful check cloth. Photo thamhiemmekong.com

Long Khanh A, nestled on an islet in the middle of the Tiền River, has been nurturing various traditional crafts since the early 20th century. Among these crafts, the art of weaving check fabric for scarves has thrived, becoming an integral part of the local identity. Although the commune faced challenges from imported industrial fabrics, many artisans dedicated themselves to preserving and reviving this traditional craft.

The Art of Check Scarf Weaving

Regional Necessity REGIONAL NECESSITY: Check scarf is an indispensable part of the people's daily life in the Mekong Delta. Photo thamhiemmekong.com

The process of crafting a check scarf involves time-honored techniques passed down through generations. Artisans like Nguyễn Thị Mèn, with over 40 years of experience, use traditional looms and yarn to create these beautiful scarves. Originally, check scarves were made in black and white or brown and white hues. The finished product is a rectangular scarf measuring approximately 120cm long and 40-50cm wide. Despite its simplicity, these cotton scarves are versatile, serving as sweat-wipers, waistbands, food holders, and even slings for children. Interestingly, as the fabric ages, it becomes softer and more absorbent.

Sustaining Tradition with Modernization

A significant turning point for the weaving village occurred in 1998 when the national power grid reached the islet, allowing the shift from hand looms to power ones. Today, 80% of the check cloth production is mechanized, enhancing productivity, increasing product value, and boosting competitiveness. Nevertheless, some traditional looms are preserved for cultural tourism and experiential activities.

Providing Livelihoods and Cultural Identity

The weaving craft has become a vital part of the local economy, providing regular employment to over 300 workers from 60 households in the commune. With each weaver earning an average of VNĐ200,000 to 250,000 per day (approximately $8.50-$10.70), the craft sustains families and supports education. Annually, the village produces more than 5 million check scarves that are distributed widely, not only across the Mekong Delta but also in Ho Chi Minh City and even Cambodia.

Recognizing the immense value the check fabric brings to the community, the Provincial People's Committee and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism have respectively acknowledged it as an iconic cottage industrial product and a National Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Innovations in Weaving

To overcome the challenges confronting their century-old craft, the artisans of Long Khánh A have embraced innovation. They skillfully blend traditional and modern elements, resulting in a range of distinctive products. The rustic check scarves, once limited to black, brown, and white, now come in various colors and patterns. Some scarves feature embroidery depicting local symbols such as lotus flowers or red-headed cranes. The weavers have also expanded their repertoire beyond scarves, incorporating check cloth into shirts, dresses, handbags, hats, and neckties. These diverse products have now become popular souvenirs for tourists visiting the region.

Preserving and Developing the Craft

Under the guidance of the local authorities, many household businesses have invested in modern weaving machines, increasing productivity and diversifying their range of products. Their efforts have been supported through access to preferential loan sources. To preserve and develop the weaving craft further, the commune authorities encourage participation in fairs, exhibitions, and other events that showcase the village's heritage. Additionally, efforts will be made to promote trade, expand markets, and assist weavers in accessing preferential loans. The weaving village will also be integrated with tourist activities, allowing visitors to explore workshops, ancient houses, and orchards.

As Dương Văn Lực, who has been weaving for over 40 years, expressed, "The weaving craft provided my family with a stable income and supported my children's education. When it was honored as a national intangible cultural heritage, I was very excited and proud. I hope that the weaving village will continue to develop even more. I'm getting old, so I will pass on the craft of our locality to my children and grandchildren."

Source: VNS