Carrie Miller, “(Pass) Through” (detail)


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Textile Odyssey Tour to Myanmar

Textile Odyssey Tour to Myanmar Jan./Feb. 2018 Main Tour: Textiles and Temples in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake (Jan. 13 – Jan. 25) Extension Tour: Rakhine, Khami, Mro, and Laytu Chin Weavers in Sittwe/Mrauk U (Jan. 25 – Jan. 31) Extension Tour: Hill Tribes in Kengtung, Shan State (Jan. 31 – Feb. 5) Main Tour: Yangon – Bagan – Mandalay – Inle Lake –Yangon (Jan. 13 – Jan. 25) Discover Myanmar’s unique and intriguing textiles while experiencing the beauty and harmony of its majestic temples and spectacular landscapes. Our main tour takes us to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake where we’ll see a variety of textiles and crafts as well as demonstrations of their production in workshops and villages of artisans. Among these beautiful textiles are lotus stem fiber cloth, originally woven for monk’s robes; Myanmar’s renown acheik weaving (known as luntaya or “100-shuttle wave”); sazigyo, a tablet-woven cord inscribed with text and used to bind Buddhist scriptures; kalagas (intricately embroidered story tapestries); lovely silk ikat and supplementary weft textiles; and hand woven, natural dyed cloth. As we wander through local markets and temple sites, we’ll mingle quietly among the local people as they move about in the rhythm of their daily lives. Both men and women still wear Myanmar’s national dress: a lungyi (long wrap tube skirt) and pinni (top). Hand woven bags in diverse designs and weave structures are also signature accessories carried by men, women, and children alike. In Inle Lake, we’ll see the Pa-O in their distinctive black outfit and plaid headscarf and the striking “Long-neck” Kayan (also known as Paduang) weavers whose tradition of wearing several brass coil rings around their necks accent their hand-woven skirts and tube tops. In galleries, small shops, workshops, and villages, we’ll also see the textiles and dress of many ethnic groups, such as the Kachin, Naga, Karen, Pa-O, Rakhine, Khami, Mro, Chin, Akha, and Padaung. As Myanmar begins its historic political transformation, now is the time to experience this beautiful country. The unique appeal of this nation lies in the combination of its gracious people, ethnically differentiated into 135 groups; the thousands of ancient temples, pagodas, and stupas dating back as far as the 11th century; and a simple way of life that still exists. The lack of industrialization and skyscrapers provide a backdrop for spellbinding landscapes of sunsets and sunrises with silhouettes of ancient pagodas. Myanmar’s reknown temples, pagodas, and stupas are architectural masterpieces that reflect the aesthetics of the varied cultural influences in its history as well as the beauty and art in religious devotion. Very much an integral part of the daily life, these religious monuments are busy centers filled with devotees who come to worship and make offerings. At special novitiate and ear-piercing ceremonies, both young and old dress in lavishly decorated costumes unique to Myanmar. We’ll have opportunities to view these daily temple activities and any ceremonies or festivals that may be in progress. Our walks through sleepy villages, idyllic rides in canoes on Inle lake, riverboat rides, and horse-drawn carriage rides on dusty roads add to the romance and charm of experiencing an ancient way of living. Eighty percent of the population thrives on agriculture and/or cottage industries. We’ll view demonstrations of the production of many of these handcrafted arts–such as fine lacquer ware, basketry, woodcarvings, elaborate puppets, rare gemstones and jewelry, handmade paper, decorative painted umbrellas, gold leaf, pottery, stone sculpture, and sand paintings. Optional Extension Tour: Rakhine, Khami, Mro and Laytu Chin Weavers in Sittwe/Mrauk U (Jan. 25 – Jan. 31) In keeping with Textile Odyssey Tours’ commitment to providing unique tours that expand our understanding and vision of the world, we’ll explore Sittwe and Mrauk U in Rakhine State. Travel to this area was restricted due to internal conflicts that erupted in 2012, but stability has returned to this area and it is once again open to travelers. This area is home to many tribal groups whose textiles are most coveted among collectors. Flying to Sittwe, we’ll cruise up the Kaladan River to the “Lost City” of Mrauk U, once the center of the powerful Arakan kingdom and a bustling trade port for a multitude of goods such as rice, ivory and elephants from Burma and cotton, spices and textiles from India, Persia and Arabia. Today Mrauk U is a quiet, sleepy town seldom visited by outsiders. Morning and evening mists float through the backdrop of forest we’ll see fishing and farming communities at work. In the homes of local weavers, we’ll experience rare opportunities to observe firsthand the special warping and -clad hills dotted with temples, lakes, marshes and mangroves, creating mystical landscapes. Some of Mrauk U’s majestic temples and stupas date back to the 17th century and are surprisingly unique in their architectural design. Influences of nearby India and Bangladesh are evident in the fascinating ethnic groups such as the Rakhine, Mro, Khami, and Laytu Chin (also known as the Tattoo Chin) groups we’ll be meeting. Traveling along the river to these weaving villages, weaving techniques used for the Rakhine complex supplemental weft designs and the back-strap weaving techniques of the Khami/Mro. As we study their textile techniques, we’ll also learn about the ways of living among these seldom-visited communities. Kengtung Hill Tribes Tour – Shan State (Jan. 31 – Feb. 5) This region lies near the border of China and Laos and is the gateway to many intriguing ethnic minority groups who continue their ancient ways of living. We’ll take short walks (up to one and half hours each way) into the villages of several ethnic minorities, including the Akha who are striking in their unique headdresses, elaborately decorated with silver coins and balls and long strings of beads; the Silver Palaung who wear waist rings made of bamboo, lacquer-work, and silver-like materials; and the Ann who spin and weave hemp for their hand-woven skirts and bags. We’ll also encounter other groups such as the Akhe, Shan, Lahu, Wa, and Loi. In the homes of these fascinating tribal peoples, we’ll have opportunities to see demonstrations of weaving and embroidery, learn about their unique cultures, and experience the warmth and hospitality that is intrinsic to the way of life here. Leader: Serena Lee Serena is a textile artist and ethnographer who spent over five years in remote areas of Asia since 1973. During her lengthy stays in over a dozen countries during the 70s and 80s, she visited Myanmar (at that time, known as Burma) on five different occasions. Returning to Myanmar in 2012, she was delighted to find this country more fascinating than ever. This is her seventh Textile Odyssey Tour to Myanmar. Serena has presented her research on the dress of ethnic minorities in northern Vietnam and southwest China internationally at various venues, including Stanford University, the 16th Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, the de Young Museum, the World Eco-Fiber Textile Forum 2008, UC Davis, the Association for Asian Studies Conference 2011, and the Southwest University of Nationalities 2013 (Chengdu, Sichuan, China). Her work is published in the Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion and the Textile Society of America Symposiums 2008 and 2014 proceedings. She is an advisor to the board of the Textile Arts Council, a support group of the de Young Museum, and a member of the Humanities Advisory Council of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. For more information: email Photos and descriptions of tours: Other upcoming Textile Odyssey Tours: Indonesia – Aug. 2017 Bhutan – Oct./Nov. 2017 Nepal – Nov. 2017 Southwest China – TBD Northern Vietnam and Cambodia – TBD Laos – TBD


January 13
February 5
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Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake, Rakhine State, Kengtung , Myanmar