Kangakudujate hääled / Voices of Weavers


  • Ave Matsin




This review introduces a book titled „Voices of Weavers. Textile Cultures, Craftsmanship, and Identity in Contemporary Myanmar“ written by a German anthropologist Jella Fink and published by Waxmann publishing house in 2020. It is a lively piece of research that reveals the cultural and economic background of two strands of local weaving traditions in Myanmar. The book summarises author’s fieldwork that was carried out in Myanmar as part of her doctoral studies in the years 2014–2017. Focus on the makers’ perspective is the most important contribution of the present book to research in textiles. In the review, parallels are drawn with Estonian textile-making practices, where applicable.

Myanmar is geographially and ethnically considerably different from Estonia, but certain similarities can indeed be spotted in the matters of textile production, authorship, professionalisation, and the issues of commercialisation. The greatest value of the book lies in mapping the tradition and explaining the rationale behind alterations in the traditional practices of weaving in two different areas – Mandalaya region in the centre and Kengtung in the distant Western highlands of Myanmar – where the practice is still well alive. As the makers’ perspective is brought to the fore, it gives the voice to often-silenced female members of marginal ethnic groups, and also helps to provide new insights into the social and cultural relations that form the framework for producing intricate textiles, the making of which is very time-consuming and requires a great amount of skill and stamina. The study can well serve as a model for further research into Estonian textile traditions in the future.


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