If you are amazed at the creativity of Thai people and their elegant dressing and kind hospitality, the new ‘Crafts from the hands of the hill to the hands of the Queen’ exhibition at The Queens Gallery in Bangkok will further amaze you. A visitor here can even learn a skill or two and also dress in an ethnic costume for a memorable picture. Artistic showcasing of revived looms and crafts of marginalised tribes along with their lifestyles and live demonstrations are an example of why the Royal’s are worshipped in Thailand. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s compassion and practicality have uplifted 22,530 Hilltribe artisans from 620 villages under SUPPORT (Supplementary Occupation and Related Techniques) program. The work on display is the essence of indigenous art refined with royal support.
Learning about the beautiful crafts is a fun way through live interactions with the tribes on work at the spacious five storied gallery. Lisu, Mian (Yao), Akha, Karen, Hmong and Lahu tribes present their vibrant art of weaving, embroidery, basketry, wax drawing, sewing, appliqué work and making of cords and bands. Their silver craft is on display too.
Visitors have the opportunity to partake in workshops to train on one of the six Hilltribe crafts and also dress in one of their outfits, depending on which one is in focus that particular week at the photo-op corner on the fifth floor. One can also paint their expressions of the exhibits on postcards to enter a contest. Dance, discussions and wedding ceremonies are additional attractions during weekends.
The exhibition reflects the work done by Queen Sirikit founded SUPPORT that is helping train poor women in handicraft arts to supplement their family incomes. Many vocational training centres have trained thousands of hill tribes since 1976 to produce these fine handicrafts. The fact that one of the training centres is at Chitralada Palace, the royal residence, shows their fondness for the ongoing project. The exhibition started 1 August, in commemoration with Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday that was on 12 August and will be on till 11 October. Incidentally, this is her seventh cycle birthday according to Chinese calendar that has 12 years in a cycle and falls in the same year as His Majesty’s seventieth anniversary of the accession to the throne.
These supplementary occupations keep the tribes engaged and bring-in additional income, eventually keeping a check on deforestation, which they would otherwise engage in. A visitor can enjoy a different kind of intricate creativity and also be humbled for playing a tiny role in conserving these endangered art and craft.
Written by Anand & Madhura Katti