At WEFTshop, we’re proud to be the exclusive Australian supplier of a special collection: handmade woven shawls and scarves produced by the skilled artisans in the Karenni refugee camps. Each piece in our collection not only stands for exceptional craftsmanship and style but also symbolises a profound story of resilience, culture, and hope, brought to life on traditional backstrap bamboo looms.
The Unique Weaving Tradition of the Karenni Refugee Camps:
In the heart of the Karenni refugee camps, a weaving tradition flourishes. Here, women use the backstrap bamboo loom, a time-honored technique, to create textiles of remarkable beauty and significance. The process, handed down through generations, involves skill, patience, and a deep connection to their cultural heritage. The creation of each shawl and scarf, taking anywhere from several days to weeks, is a testament to the dedication and artistry of these weavers.
WEFTshop: The Sole Gateway to These Artisanal Treasures:
As the only retailer of these handcrafted items, WEFTshop offers an exclusive opportunity to experience this unique art form. Our role goes beyond selling; we bridge cultures and support the Karenni Refugee Camps striving to keep its traditions alive amidst challenging circumstances.
The Karenni refugee camps in Thailand have been in existence since the late 1980s. The camps were established to provide shelter and safety for people fleeing the conflict in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), particularly those from the Karenni state. The conflict in Myanmar, involving various ethnic groups and the national government, has led to prolonged periods of instability and violence, forcing many to seek refuge in neighboring countries like Thailand.
Over the years, the situation in these camps has evolved, with various international organisations and NGOs providing aid and support. The camps have become semi-permanent settlements for many refugees, as the ongoing conflict and political situation in Myanmar have made it difficult for them to return home safely. The exact duration of the camps' existence can vary depending on the specific camp, but in general, the Karenni refugee camps have been a part of the landscape along the Thailand-Myanmar border for over three decades.
WEFTshop's connection with WEAVE and Karenni Refugee Artisans
WEFTshop has been in collaboration with these women in the Karenni refugee camps for almost 18 years through a Fair Trade, nonprofit organisation called WEAVE. As part of their income generation program, we order directly from these women to provide them over the living wage earnings for their work. In the earlier days, we helped train these women to be self sufficient and provided design and colour training to help them develop the Mie Meh Shawls and Scarves and other collections using their traditional backstrap loom.
Motivations and Impact:
For the women in these camps, weaving is more than a craft—it's a lifeline. It provides:
- Cultural Connection: In a life marked by upheaval, weaving is a touchstone to their cultural identity and heritage.
- Economic Empowerment: Through fair trade practices, these weavers earn a sustainable income, fostering independence and security.
- Therapeutic Value: The act of weaving offers a sense of normalcy and purpose, serving as a therapeutic outlet amidst the challenges of camp life.
The Essence of Fair Trade and Sustainability:
Our commitment to fair trade ensures that these talented artisans are fairly compensated in safe working conditions. By using natural dyes and 100% cotton, we also embrace sustainability, ensuring that our products are as kind to the earth as they are to the people who craft them.
The Final Product: A Tapestry of Hope and Resilience:
Each shawl and scarf from WEFTshop is a testament to the resilience and skill of the Karenni weavers. These items are not just accessories; they are carriers of stories, emblems of hope, and artifacts of a rich, enduring culture.
When you choose a WEFTshop shawl or scarf, you are not just selecting a piece of clothing. You are supporting a community, preserving a cultural art form, and wearing a symbol of strength and perseverance. Visit our Shawls and Scarves collection from the Karenni Refugee Camps and become a part of this extraordinary story.