Myanmar lacquerware craft faces extinction due to declining horse-tail hair weaving

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The photo shows the workplace of making lacquerware, crafted with horse-tail hair weaving, in East Phwasaw Village in Bagan of NyaungU Township. Photo: Dipa Linn

The traditional art of Myanmar lacquerware, crafted with horse-tail hair weaving, is facing extinction, with only a handful of practising artists remaining, according to U Ba Nyein Lacquerware Industry.
A lacquerware business owner from East Phwasaw Village in Bagan of NyaungU Township mentioned that their family has practised the craft for generations in Bagan and NyaungU. While bamboo-strip lacquer art remains robust, the technique involving horse-tail hair is rapidly declining.
The rising costs of horse-tail hair, intricate process, and dwindling demand are primarily responsible for the decline of this craft.
In its heyday, horse-tail hair lacquerware artists were abundant across many villages in Bagan. However, today, only one artist operating horse-tail hair lacquerware remains in West Phwasaw Village, while U Ba Nyein Lacquerware Industry has a handful of practitioners left in new Bagan City.
Traditional lacquerware art encompasses three disciplines: bamboo, wood, and horse-tail hair. The horse-tail hair technique is particularly challenging as each horse-tail hair must be meticulously woven into thin bamboo strips. Crafting a four-inch cup using this method takes about an hour and a half.
This discipline is primarily employed in weaving round objects rather than angular ones. Lacquerware produced through this intricate process is renowned for its exceptional quality and soft texture.
A viss of horse-tail hair is priced at K70,000. Daw San San Aye, the artist specializing in this discipline from West Phwasaw Village, voiced her concerns about the declining nature of the craft, highlighting the challenges posed by high production costs and the inherent difficulty of the process. — Dipa Linn/NT

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