“One of the many reasons of Chin State being the poorest and least developed state in Myanmar is that we do not have local products to make enough income and also Chin fabrics in the local market are not produced in Chin and more than 80% of them come from neighbouring regions such as Kalay and Gangaw.” said Ms. Anna Biak Tha Mawi, the owner and founder of Aidii Weaving House.
Born in Hakha, Chin State and raised in Yangon since 5 years old, Anna has always been familiar with traditional back-strap weaving because of her mother who usually looks for yarns and asks their Chin neighbours to weave blankets and traditional dresses for them. “And both of my grandmothers are skilled weavers and natural dyers so I think I might have inherited the passion from them.” Anna said.
Anna has been interested in painting and designs since high school. After realising her passion in Chin traditional weaving, she would find weavers and talk to them and learn about Chin traditional costumes and patterns, whenever she travels to villages in Chin State.
“I graduated with B.A. English from Liberal Arts Program, Myanmar Institute of Theology and studied Documentary Filmmaking at Yangon Film School. I wanted to make stories of Chin State for a project so I went back to my hometown in 2012, and that trip was the reason that I decided to establish my Aidii Weaving House.”
That is when she found out that there is no proper market for Chin authentic back-strap woven fabrics. The weavers from the village would come to the city on foot and ask around from one traditional clothing shop to another the whole day for the best price they can sell. “Sometimes, they have to go back without selling anything. Since, they do not have enough income from weaving, the weavers from the older generation are not passing down their skills to the younger generation anymore and we are losing our cultural identity day by day. And also, the non-Chin handloom weavers are messing up our traditional patterns into commercial fusion designs with Burmese a-cheik and so on.”
After finding out all those things, Anna decided to run a social business with traditional back-strap weaving and established Aidii Weaving House with 13 weavers in Hakha, with the purpose of preserving Chin traditional back-strap weaving, modernising it according to the time and creating job opportunities for Chin weavers and young people.
More than 60 years ago, raw materials such as hand-spun silks and cotton yarns used to be locally produced. “But there is no production of silks and yarns anymore so we use raw materials called terry cotton imported from India and yarns from China and Thailand.” Anna stated. Starting from 2018, Aidii Weaving House has been collaborating with some local yarn productions from central regions in Myanmar and trying to produce 100% Myanmar made products.
Using the yarns from India, the process of weaving starts from yarn bobbins. The back-strap loom of Chin is made with an arrangement of stick held together by vertical threads. If local natural dyed cotton yarns are used, they need to be soaked into rice water and dried to harden the yarns. Only after that, the weavers can bobbin the yarns and prepare them into warp and weft threads. It takes about 3 to 4 months to finish up a set of Chin (Lai Tribe) traditional costumes. The duration of a costume can range from 10 days to 6 months according to the designs.
The main products of Aidii include – authentic back-strap weaving traditional and modernised Chin traditional costumes (Lai tribe from northern part of Chin), loom weaving fabric ready-to-wear collection dresses for men and women, zero-waste souvenirs and accessories such as bags, mug rags and earrings. They also produce some traditional and fancy silver accessories. The prices of the products range from 1,000 Ks from 1,500,000 Ks and more according to the products and designs.
Aidii accepts customized designs for special occasions such as weddings, graduations and so on. They also offer customized uniforms for youth and women groups in churches and individual customers can also order their customized design products to Aidii.
When asked about special caring instructions for products, Anna stated “For products made with terry cotton yarns, the color will not fade for a long time, however, hand-washing and hanging inside out when drying clothes in the sun are recommended. Also fold them inside out when you keep your Chin traditional dress in your closet. For natural dye clothes, you should not use strong detergent and better wash them separately from other clothes and I’d recommend not drying them under the strong sunlight.”
Aidii weaving house in Hakha, Chin State has 10 fulltime weavers who come and work at the weaving house from 9 to 5 on weekdays and there are more than 80 home-based weavers who work from home.
“The COVID-19 effects hit us hard and we have only around 20 weavers currently working and we are still trying and struggling to find ways to overcome these COVID-19 effects.”
Till now, there are 2 places where you can purchase Aidii products- the weaving house in Hakha, Chin State and Yangon office on Insein Road. You can also order directly from Aidii’s Facebook page. Aidii has online delivery service to Yangon and other countries. They send the products through local delivery service within Myanmar and DHL for overseas deliveries.
At the end of the interview, Anna said “I feel like it is such a privilege to be a Chin. There are still a lot to learn and explore about Chin traditional textiles and since this is a life-long project that i’m dedicated to, I’m always thankful for my customers who support us even with our many flaws in doing this business. I have never had confidence in doing business since I am from a middle class pastor family, however, there are needs in my homeland and I want to be useful in some way.”
“So, please remember that whenever you purchase the products from Aidii Weaving House, each of them is specifically made by the weavers in Chin State and you are not only helping them in their living and preserving the tradition of Chin people. You also need to remember that you are a part of big dreams of these people that can change their lives.” she concluded.
In 2019 the Myanmar Women Leaders visited Ms. Anna Biak Tha Mawi, led by Dr Anna Sui Hluan, who as a chin national often wear her dresses. See photos from their visit below:
Tel: +959 255 674 401, +959 795 821 920
- 142, Za Hoe Road (Matupi Road), Hakha, Chin State (Aidii Weaving House)
- 72, 2nd Floor, Insein Road (San Yeik Nyein Bus Stop), Yangon (Yangon Office)