Phu Quy‎’s handmade hammocks come back in style

Sitting in front of her small grocery, Huynh Thi Nhon, 56, carefully splits dried stilt roots of Pandanus trees into fibres to make hammocks that help her earn extra income.

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Phu Quy‎’s handmade hammocks come back in style
Huynh Thi Nhon helps preserve the traditional hammock-weaving craft of Phu Quy‎ Island in Binh Thuan Province. 

Nhon is one of the few people in Long Hai Commune on Binh Thuan Province's Phu Quy‎ Island who are keeping the craft alive.

She began making hammocks in the central coastal province when she was 15 years old.

In past years, most local women living on the island were hammock weavers, but now many of them have better-paid jobs.

“The island’s hammocks were very famous. Traders in wholesale markets across the country often came here to order our craft products,” Nhon recalled.

At noon and in the evening, islanders, mostly women, were busy with orders and worked without electricity, using oil lamps at night.

“That was a really fun time,” Nhon said.

If stored in advantageous conditions, the hammocks can be used for five to 10 years.

Phu Quy‎’s handmade hammocks come back in style
The stilt roots of Pandanus trees are used to make hammocks. VNS Photo Ngoc Diep

Today, only a few islanders weave hammocks, usually for their family’s use or for gifts for relatives and friends.

Many people now prefer industrially-made hammocks made from synthetic fibres that can be bought for cheap prices.

Handicraft skills

“The weaving process is not easy and requires patience, so it may not attract the young people,” Nhơn said.

Phu Quy‎’s handmade hammocks come back in style
Weaving hammocks requires skill and patience. VNS Photo Hai Vuong

To make the hammocks, the only material needed is the stilt root of the Pandanus tree, which grows wild throughout the island.

People cut the stilt roots from the trees, peel the bark, split it into thin sheets, and then set them out in the sun for a day.

To makes splitting the sheets easier, the fibres are not fully dried, Nhon said.

“If the fibres are too dry, people can put them into seawater to soften them.”

One of the important steps is the rolling technique over the calf of the leg. “This technique will create some pain on your calf, but only for the first few days.”

 

Showing how it's done, Nhon pinches and holds about seven to 10 thin fibres, and then uses the full length of her right hand to roll the fibres along her right calf. The fibres twist together into a cord.

She repeats these stages until she has enough cords for a hammock.

It takes about seven to 10 days to complete an item.

A hammock is usually 2-2.5 metres long, and has natural colours that are milky or brownish.

Phu Quy‎’s handmade hammocks come back in style
A young boy swinging in a hammock. 

Tourist attraction

To revive the local craft of hammock-making, local authorities have decided to feature the craft as a tourist attraction.

Do Kim Phung, an official at the culture department at Long Hai Commune’s People’s Committee, said that measures were being taken to preserve the weaving techniques for following generations.

While waiting for preferential policies from the government, locals are also actively seeking a market for their products, Phung said.

In recent years, the number of new orders has increased thanks to the strong development of eco-tourism, and the trend toward a more sustainable society with environmentally friendly products.

Phu Quy‎ welcomes thousands of visitors every year and has seen an increase in tourists because of its pristine natural beauty.

“More people know about the island’s traditional crafts and they like our craft products,” Nhon said.

Her son has been promoting and marketing locally made products through social networks like Facebook.

Since the beginning of the year, Nhon has sold about 10 hammocks to customers and tourists who placed orders.

The price ranges from VND700,000 (US$30) to VND1 million ($43) each, depending on their size.

“With changes in market trends, our traditional craft can be revived,” Nhon said.

Phu Quy‎’s handmade hammocks come back in style
Hammocks feature the art work of the people living on Phu Quy‎ Island. 

However, she is still worried that young people will not be interested in the craft and will move to the mainland for better job opportunities.

I hope the island’s cultural values can be preserved, and that hammock-weaving can become one of our tourist attractions soon. VNS

Ngoc Diep

 
 
 
 
 
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