Community knowledge

Songhay cowhide patterns: Part 2

The terminology for cowhide patterns remedies this imprecision. One can say that it is a photographic – chromatic thumbnail – index to the expanded spectrum of combinations.  The best way to gauge its efficiency is to compare standard patterns. Our main informant, an experienced herdsman, estimates that he can recognize up to 120 patterns, but the full count may come close to 150. For the most part, these names are originally borrowed from Fulfulde, the language of the traditionally herding Fulbe (Fula).

Songhay cowhide patterns: Part 1

In Gao and vicinity, it is common to hear announcements of lost cattle on local radio. To be useful, the message must contain fairly precise descriptions. For example, let’s take a red cow – in Songhay, haw (cow), ciray (red). To be sure, the phrase haw ciray is correct, as it literally means “red cow”. Then, why does such a description amuse some villagers just a few kilometres away from town?

Konbaung Dynasty and Luntaya Acheik

Luntaya acheik originated in Konbaung dynasty (1752-1885) and could be worn only by kings and queens. If this new fabric was presented respectfully to the king and queen, a prize would be awarded to the giver. Commoners were not allowed to wear a new one but it could worn the king’s hand-me-downs which is awarded to the outstanding person in the service of the king.

The Changes of Value on Time

The orange-lined text in the figure is a decree which was issued by King Bodawphaya (1782-1819) in Konebaung dynasty. The original text of it has not been found until now. This is an excerpt from the article written by Ms. Nu Nu Kyi who wrote in Saunders Weaving Institute’100 anniversary magazine. In a decree, the lay men from the different regions had to wear pasoe (the nether garment of Myanmar males) by weaving cotton and satin threads only. Moreover, they didn’t allow wearing the turban, nether garment, and shawl which make with gold and silver threads with a fly shuttle loom.

Learning to be an anthropologist 2

When we went to the field to collect oral histories or stories or experiences of U Pein Bridge, we did not know how to explain our tasks or talk about them. Our group then applied what we had observed the foreign anthropologist do -  smile and make eye contact. We adopted this when we spoke to a fried-fish seller who we first thought may know about something of the U Pein Bridge. First, we bought a pack of fried fish with 2000 Kyat before asking her about U Pein bridge. So, we used our money to get data and we were very happy.

Luntaya acheik: Then and now

The weaving of luntaya acheik  or the wavy rope pattern created through the use of hundred shuttles loom and silk thread, is mainly based on seven elementary designs and thirty-three ropes. In the Konbaung period (1752 to 1885), it was a royal fabric that only the kings, queens and high officials were allowed to wear. Now everyone can wear luntaya acheik. People wear this luntaya acheik for special ceremonies like novitiation, wedding, state level events, and convocation. It is a valuable fabric.

The future of luntaya acheik design

I interviewed one of the weavers about the customer preferences in the design of luntaya acheik .

I want to weave this design (as shown in the pictures) but I don’t do it. I don’t weave this design because the customers don’t like it. If I make it then I will have to sell it at a discount. But some customers from abroad often order older or traditional designs like this.

Pitha - Rice cake

Pitha is the common name used in Assam for rice cake. The Boro pitha is traditionally prepared during the harvest festival. In earlier times indigenous varieties of rice were used for making pitha. Each household has its own way of making pitha/ rice cakes and it is generally women who engage in such activities.  Now-a-days with indigenous rice varieties slowly disappearing, hybrid rice varieties are used for making pitha; and pitha is no longer related with festivities alone.

‘Hliang-Phi Jaothi’

Each time when Hin Lad Nai villagers work on their farmland – either alone or with their friends and families, they usually practice the ceremony called ‘Hliang-Phi Jaothi’. In Hliang-Phi Jaothi they offer some of their food to the guardian spirit or ‘Phi Jaothi’ before having lunch.  In practicing the ceremony, they first prepare some food on banana leaves, they pray and call on Phi Jaothi to eat the food. The eldest man from each household does this this process. He holds the rice pack (made from banana leaves), and lays it on stump before squatting down and praying.

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