Traditional lacquerware businesses in Bagan are currently working towards exporting to foreign countries in order to promote their products in international markets.
The art of making lacquerware — decorative articles, typically made of wood or bamboo, that have been coated with lacquer — has been preserved in the area since the 11th century, with businesses still continuing to practice it.
According to lacquerware businesses, the handicrafts are made using locally-sourced raw materials, and bamboos need to be trimmed into strips before making the designs. All kinds of lacquerware such as alm bowls, pickled tea leaves bowls, plates, mats, and baskets are being produced by hand. Nowadays, lacquerware arts are being used in consumer products and foreigners are likely to buy lacquerware as souvenirs.
“At present, most lacquerware handicrafts are being produced for local markets, and some businesses are making customized designs for foreigners. The quality and price of products depends on the use of resin paste. If the lacquerware is coated with several layers of resin paste, it can be used for many years,” said U Maung Maung, who owns a lacquerware business in Pyitainghtaung.
“A number of tangible and intangible arts from the 11th century are still being preserved. Bagan lacquerware products are not able to enter the international market due to lack of stable demand,” he added.
Bagan hosts a large number of international visitors every year and the high season is between November and April. During the high season, locals earn a good income. As tourist arrivals in Bagan remain normal, lacquerware businesses experience low demand.
It takes six to ten months to make lacquerware and businesses have to run for the whole year. In addition, most of the businesses in Bagan have to rely on the tourism sector.
The art of making lacquerware has been passed from generation to generation, and there are 10 such businesses in Bagan. Meanwhile, thousands of businesses in Myinkapar, Phwar Saw, Min Nan Thu, and Thahtaygon villages are also producing lacquerware on a manageable scale. —Than Htike
(Translated by La Wonn)