ISDSI Films: Voices from the Village

Weaving a New Pattern

The beautiful naturally dyed cloth of the Ba’ker’yaw (Sgaw Karen) people is famous. Spinning cotton, dying vibrant colors out of natural materials (bark, leaves, seeds and earth) relies on both the deep indigenous knowledge of the weavers, but also on a healthy ecosystem that supports the plants they use to dye the cloth.

This film tells the story of the weavers of Huay Hee and other villages in the remote mountains of Northern Thailand province.  Maintaining their cultural identity is important to these communities, and keeping the traditions of weaving and traditional clothing alive is a critical part of that. From selecting the right seeds, to how to spin and prepare the traditional back-strap looms, this film tells the story of traditional Karen cloth, and the women who maintain and support these traditions.

What is so interesting about this story is how directly cultural practices and material culture is intrinsically linked to their ecological home, and the forests and fields of upland Southeast Asia. More than just about cloth, this shows how stories, tradition, and indigenous knowledge link together human and ecological communities.


The villages of Huay Hee and Huay Tong Gaw are in the remote mountains of Mae Hong Son, Northern Thailand. Huay Hee was the first village in Southeast Asia to develop Community Based Tourism (CBT), and Huay Tong Gaw is now part of that network.  CBT supports everyone in the village, as families rotate homestays, and activities contribute to a common fund to help support and develop their communities.

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