During a recent trip to the area, however, The Irrawaddy found that only two houses were sticking with the trade, their workshops manned by people in their 50s who at the time of the visit were weaving the material for wooden armchairs.
These rattan stalwarts claimed that modern furniture, made of plastic or steel and readily available at supermarkets these days, was the reason that the once steady rattan weaving trade appears, to a visitor in 2016, to be in its death throes.
A centuries-old traditional material for making furniture, rattan was widely used across the country, valued for its adaptability to the weather; its surface feels cool to the touch in high temperatures and warm in cooler weather.
Another factor working against the rattan trade in a 21st century filled with alternatives is its time-consuming nature. To weave the back and seat to one armchair takes an average of six hours, denting the appeal of the craft for younger generations.
Asked why they are sticking with the job while others have moved on, one weaver said: “It’s our traditional craft as well as it is the business that we have known for generations.”
Founded in 1993 by a group of Myanmar journalists living in exile in Thailand, The Irrawaddy is a leading source of reliable news, information, and analysis on Burma/Myanmar and the Southeast Asian region. From its inception, The Irrawaddy has been an independent news media group, unaffiliated with any political party, organization or government. We believe that media must be free and independent and we strive to preserve press freedom.