88.0 x 190.0cm [weft x warp]
The Tai Neua are a sub-group of the Tai language family. The Tai live in a broad region stretching from Eastern India to Southwestern China and Northern Vietnam. Tai Neua women from Laos made the textiles on display. Before the easy availability of printed cotton, Lao-Tai women produced all the textiles for the home, including mattresses, pillows, clothing, and decorative pieces. The blankets, often decorated with key and swastika patterns, are made of at least two pieces of fabric, and are necessary as the nights can be cold in the highlands of Laos. Men and women wear ankle- or calf-length tube-skirts, although the decoration is different for each gender. For women, the skirt is finished with a separately woven border, either a black band with a few coloured stripes or an elaborately decorated wide band. Colours and patterns are dictated by the wearer's age, with young people wearing bright colours and large patterns, and middle-aged and elderly people favouring small patterns and subdued colours. Ceremonial skirt cloths, with their specialised patterns of nagas (mythical serpents), house structures, and the funeral tree, are used by shamans. Women also weave such textiles to give to their daughters-in-law, who then wear the skirts to the weaver's funeral and are dressed in them after their own deaths.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2011