S’Tieng women weave brighter future
Update: Apr 01, 2022
Even though industrial fabric is increasingly popular among S'Tieng ethnic minority in the southern province of Binh Phuoc, local women and authorities have been making great efforts to preserve their traditional craft – handloom weaving.

Handloom fabric is an indispensable part of S'Tieng culture. Photo binhphuoc.gov.vn

Arriving at Phu Thuan Village, Phu Rieng District in Binh Phuoc in every late afternoon or on weekends, visitors will see S'Tieng women sitting by handlooms weaving colourful cloth.

Their products are diverse, rich in colours, and can be used for pants, shirts, skirts, blankets, and quilts.

The S'Tieng believe that mature men must know how to knit baskets while mature women must learn how to weave cloth before getting married.

Weaver Thi Binh has been practising the craft for nearly 20 years. VNA/VNS Photo K GUIH 

Thi Binh, 42, has been practising the craft for almost 20 years. Born and raised in the border area of Bu Gia Map District, she moved to Phu Rieng District after getting married. An indispensable part of her luggage is weaving tools.

Binh was interested in the craft since her grandmother and mother taught her at 15. Years of practising have made her an artisan with significant skills.

"We preserve our community's cultural identity by continuing to weave cloth on handloom. I will be pleased to pass the craft to younger people who are interested or gifted so that this part of our culture will not die out," she said.

Another artisan in the village is Thi Muong. Although she is getting old, she has never taken a day off work at the loom. Her skilful hands have woven thousands of metres of sophisticated, eye-catching fabrics.

According to Muong, artisanal cloth weaving goes through various complicated working stages before it is finished. The colour and fabric mainly originate from natural materials like wild leaves and forest tree bark. At the weaving stage, besides the loom, the worker also has to use other tools in combination with their skills.

"To create the sophisticated and unique patterns, the weavers must have skilful hands, an aesthetic sense and an understanding of lines, colours and shape. The weavers, therefore, are seen as painters," she said.

Muong said that the S'Tieng fabric is decorated with many traditional patterns and motifs like cubes, humans, birds, animals, trees and flowers.

The local artisans have also modified their products to meet consumer tastes by creating more new decorative patterns and make new products such as colourful blankets, mattresses, tablecloths or bags.

"Our products are manually woven and priced, ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dong. We do not earn a great profit from the work but do it to preserve and promote the traditions of our community," she said.


Hon Quan District in Binh Phuoc is now home to 1,000 S'Tieng households who are still practising handloom weaving.

Their main products are blankets, towels and clothes, 80 per cent of which are consumed within the district and the rest within the province.

Weaving cooperatives have been established in many localities in Binh Phuoc to gather artisans and enthusiasts. However, their business still faces many difficulties, and many members cannot live by the craft. 

Thi Nhoi is seen working with the loom to weave traditional fabric. VNA/VNS Photo K GUIH 

"We only make ethnic products in our spare time as it is not our main source of income and only receive pre-orders, mostly for special events like New Year Festival, festivals or weddings," said Thi Nhoi, a local artisan.

Recognising this indispensable part of S'Tieng cultural identity, the provincial authorities have approved a project to preserve and develop the traditional handloom weaving of the S'Tieng in Hon Quan with a total budget of VND7.2 billion (US$315,000).

According to the project, the weaving craft in the district will attract 40-50 per cent of the ethnic households as its main labourers.

"The handloom weaving of the S'Tieng in Hon Quan is an ancient craft that contains both economic and cultural values," said Tran Van Chung, director of Binh Phuoc Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

"The conservation and development of the craft contribute to not only the promotion of the national cultural values but also the economic and social development of the region."

According to Le Thai Canh, chairman of Thanh An Commune People's Committee, the preservation of handloom weaving in the locality is considered a success as traditional fabric is suffering from fierce competition from industrial textiles.

"The local authorities are looking for more outlets for the ethnic cloth while supporting the weavers to maintain their craft," he said.

"However, in order to make artisans and weavers committed to and to live off the craft, it is necessary to receive more support and attention from organisations, and there should be more linkages among tourists areas so that S'Tieng products can be introduced to more consumers." 

With strong local efforts to maintain this ancient craft, the S'Tieng are set to weave a bright and colourful future.

By K GUIH & Tran Trung

VNS - vietnamnews.vn - April 1, 2022