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Monday, July 31, 2017
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017
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Weaving Home


tertiary image

Photo: Sontera Dresch

Houston is home to a wide range of refugee communities from around the world, each bringing with them distinctive cultural traditions. While this project focused most significantly on the city’s new Karenni community, it was intended to serve as a portal for considering more broadly the challenges and opportunities associated with seeking asylum in a new place called Houston. See the associated program offerings below for more information.

 

PARTNERS

Produced in collaboration with The Community Cloth and Our Global Village, World Refugee Day and Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston and the Contemporary Handweavers of Houston.

SPONSORS

Weaving Home was made possible by support from Houston Endowment Inc., National Endowment for the Arts and Wells Fargo Bank. 

Weaving Home: Textile Traditions from Houston’s Karenni Community The Exhibition

Weaving Home explores the textile traditions practiced by a group of Houston-based women from the Karenni ethnic community, originally from the mountainous border region of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) that abuts Thailand. The objects they weave – bags, skirts, capes, etc. – are for functional use and everyday adornment.

 

The Karenni weavers of Houston have been assisted by a local program known as The Community Cloth. The Community Cloth supports refugee women – through seed grants, training and peer support – who want to create and sell handmade, indigenous arts and crafts. The Community Cloth works with women from a number of refugee communities in Houston to provide opportunities to express their culture and heritage, to learn new skills that will assist them in transitioning to a new life, and to obtain much-needed supplemental income.

As a result, several of the women in the community have re-purposed their weaving skills by turning their craft to the creation of scarves, table runners, and other objects attractive to Western consumers. This adaptation works to preserve the art form and to sustain the community culturally and economically.

Weavers Baw Meh, Bu Myar and Hti Moe trade off on the bobbin, spindle and loom, using their work to socialize together and sometimes share child care. Their work maintains the tradition in a contemporary urban setting, while communicating its significance to a younger generation of Karenni growing up in the United States.

Weaving Home displayed examples of both Karenni traditional and market-influenced pieces in an effort to tell the story of an art form at the center of refugee life. As they make a home in Houston, they weave. As they weave, they make a home.

ABOUT THE WEAVERS

The group of Karenni women who weave together here in Houston all live in the same apartment complex in southwest Houston. They settled there upon arrival in Houston in 2009. They learned to weave as part of village life in Burma and carried on the tradition in the refugee camps in Thailand. In Houston they undertake weaving as a collective. Currently, this collective includes three weavers: Bu Myar, Hti Moe and Baw Meh.

Baw Meh does not know the name of her original village in the Eastern part of the Karenni state because she fled on foot at the age of four. She lost both her parents as an infant. As the youngest child, she was raised by her brothers and sisters. She married before leaving Burma in 1996 for Thailand, and was resettled in Houston with her husband and four children in 2009.

 

Hti Moe was born in Daw Tamye in the western part of the Karenni state. When she was 12, the Burmese military burned her village and forcibly moved the community to a nearby city. The displaced villagers slept under the houses of the city dwellers. Hti Moe, her parents and her 8 siblings fled to Thailand in 1996.

 

Bu Myar was born in the village of Daw Takeh in the eastern part of the Karenni state. At the age of 10, she fled the civil war in Burma with her parents and siblings and entered Thailand. She married in the refugee camp and had four children who were all born there. Her parents are still in Thailand.

 

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS

Debra Ham is a professional photographer with experience in various aspects of the photographic field. She has participated in innumerable documentation projects undertaker by the HAA Folklife + Traditional Arts Program. She has a huge heart for volunteer work and offers her talent to several non-profit organizations in Houston.

 

ABOUT SOHIL MAKNOJIA

Sohil Maknojia is a photographer who studied in California and is now based out of Houston. He likes to tell stories that reflect real life and hopes to continue pursuing such projects.

Weaving & Micro-Enterprise

Thursday, May 31, 2012, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Houston Arts Alliance, Alliance Gallery


Members of the Contemporary Handweavers of Houston and a co-founder from The Community Cloth conducted an informal panel discussion exploring the economics of handmade textiles and the mechanics of micro-enterprise endeavors. Participants explored issues of tradition and modernity as they related to the craft and strategies for community-based cultural preservation and economic sustainability.

Telling the Refugee Story

Thursday, June 21, 2012, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Houston Arts Alliance, Alliance Gallery


Representatives from several Houston-based refugee communities shared events that led up to their displacement, their experience in refugee camps and resettlement in Houston. They also discussed efforts—both the struggles and the successes—to retain their respective community’s cultural identity in contemporary Texas.

Weaving Demonstration

Saturday, June 30, 2012, 2 – 4 p.m.

Houston Arts Alliance, Alliance Gallery


This up-close demonstration revealed the backstrap weaving tradition that Karenni women practice, including a discussion of traditional woven garments and their uses. Staff from The Community Cloth talked about the process of working with the Karenni weavers to develop new products for the Western marketplace.

World Refugee Day Reception

Thursday, July 5, 2012, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Houston Arts Alliance, Alliance Gallery


This reception honored and celebrated the wide community of refugees that had found their way to Houston and the many agencies and volunteers who served them. Houston’s World Refugee Day Co-Chairs, Lizeth Zavala and Emily Stickle, reviewed the 2012 event and shared plans for 2013.

COVERAGE

July 16
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