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Threads that bind - Kayan weavers 12 years on

12 years ago in Nelson, Dr Kay Sneddon decided to help a group of former refugees from Myanmar feel more settled in Nelson.

The family were the first Kayan people to be settled in Nelson back in 2008 after being given refugee status while in a camp in Northern Thailand - what was then the controversial "Long Neck village"

Photo: John-Paul Pochin, Source: RNZ

In this Voices episode, we look at how it all began for the Sukita Project and over the years helped keep the fabric of this Kayan culture intact – through weaving on traditional looms.

Kayan women came into international spotlight after tourists started visiting to the northern Thai camp where the community lived after fleeing conflict in Myanmar.

Long Neck village became controversial for the exploitative tourism it attracted. Some even likened it to an ‘ethnic theme parks’ as images of the women with stacks of brass rings on their long necks, selling handmade fabric and trinkets for a living became seen around the world.

Zem Ber and her family with her mother Mu Phou (image above) arrived in New Zealand after a long wait, having been denied permission to leave that camp.

Nearly 14 years after they arrived, these days weaving is still something keeps the small Kayan community tight-knit, and an age-old tradition intact.

Listen to their story in this episode of Voices.

Source: RNZ, Voices, 5:00 am on 20 June 2022


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