Do you remember the first time you traveled outside of your state, never mind out of your country or halfway around the world? Or when you attended your first weaving conference and met your “tribe” of other weavers? What about doing both and being only 20 years of age? Let me introduce you to Mone Jouymany, to her upcoming adventure to attend Tinkuy (the international weaving gathering sponsored by The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco) in Peru this November, and to how you can assist in her journey.
Mone is a Lao citizen from the Katu ethnic minority group. She grew up on a coffee plantation located in the Salavanh Province in southern Laos. At the age of 7, she learned the traditional Katu style of weaving from her mother and elder sisters. She came to Luang Prabang after receiving a special internship from Ock Pop Tok (OPT) and now works at the Living Crafts Centre and the OPT stores in Luang Prabang.
A few years back while visiting OPT, I met Mone. Each day, she would demonstrate her special form of backstrap weaving. The Katu traditional cloths are made of cotton featuring beads woven in on the weft thread, and sometimes banana fibers for texture and strength. After she finished weaving for the day and before she went to her English class at night, she would sit by me and want to talk. Oh she had so many questions–where did I live, did I have a family, what was the United States like? She couldn’t believe that I too was a weaver, and that I too used to weave for a living. But I explained to her that our weaving styles were different, that hers was so unique and special, and that someday she could come to the U.S. and teach people her weaving style. But in order to do this, she had to improve her English skills, go to school when she could manage it (she did graduate from high school), and to keep weaving.
Fast forward a few years. An opportunity arose for Mone to attend Tinkuy and travel there with the OPT co-director, Joanna Smith. She is now 20 years old, is very adept in English, is studying photography and computer skills, and continues to work at OPT. Every so often, I receive an email from her. This one arrived the other day:
“I visited my family with my sister who was not feeling well. I was living with my sister at Ock pop Tok. She decided to move back with our family because she is sick. So I came back alone to Luang Prabang. I am sad without my sister. I got used to having her around. I have not taken an English class since June. I asked my teacher for a new term last month, but there is no class for me, because we don’t have enough students to create an Upper A class. They said maybe in December we will have enough students. But I still try to study every day. I have applied for my passport, but have not received it yet. I am so happy that I was invited to Peru. My life is amazing!!!! Are you coming to conference too? I don’t know how i can visit you, but i would love to see where you live. I love to interact with other people. My dream is to have a home-stay in my village, display and selling my own work. Thank you for your support. I hope everything is going well for you. Talk to you soon.”
So here’s the Big Ask. I just heard that Mone got her passport. But to bring international artisans to Tinkuy, it costs money–airfare from Southeast Asia to Peru is about $3000. Can you help her attend this once-in-her-lifetime event and to aid in sustaining global artisans? Whether it’s $10 or $1000, all donations are tax deductible. In return, while Mone is on her new journey, she will write a ClothRoads blog about her visit to Cusco, meeting other weavers at Tinkuy, and how this opportunity will change her life.
May the many threads of life continue to connect us. Thank you for your support.
Ock Pop Tok is a social enterprise working in the fields of textiles and crafts in Laos. They are based in the UNESCO heritage town of Luang Prabang and are a founding member of the Lao Fair Trade Group. The philosophy behind Ock Pop Tok is to empower women through their traditional skills, as well as promoting the beauty of Laotian textiles across the globe.