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VientianeOne of the reasons we’ve included this Vientiane section is so we could highlight this photo of traditional dancers we shot in Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, as the three young women represent the three major ethnic groupings in Laos. We think the Lao government is changing the way it promotes and classifies the many ethnic groups in Laos, but by classifying the many ethnic groups into these three encompassing groupings it does help one to begin to understand the rich ethnic diversity in Laos.

On the far left the young woman is wearing Hmong clothing featuring a Blue Hmong skirt, and she represents the Lao Soung, the Lao of the mountain tops. "The Lao Sung make up about 10 percent of the population. These groups are Miao-Yao or Tibeto-Burmese speaking peoples who have continued to migrate into Laos from the north within the last two centuries. In Laos most highland groups live on the tops or upper slopes of the northern mountains, where they grow rice and corn in swidden fields. Some of these villages have been resettled in lowland sites since the 1970s. The Hmong are the most numerous Lao Sung group, with villages spread across the uplands of all the northern provinces. Mien (Yao), Akha, Lahu, and other related groups are considerably smaller in numbers and tend to be located in rather limited areas of the north." (Countrystudies-Library of Congress)

The young woman in the middle represents the majority Lao Loum (Lao of the lowland) ethnic groups and is wearing a sin, or tube skirt. "The Lao Loum, or lowland Lao, constitute the majority of the population--66 percent--and comprise several ethnic groups that began to move from the north into the Southeast Asian peninsula about 1,000 years ago. All Lao Loum speak languages of the Tai-Kadai family--for example Lao, Lue, Tai Dam (Black Tai), and Tai Deng (Red Tai). Lao Loum prefer to live in lowland valley areas and base agricultural production on paddy rice." (Countrystudies - Library of Congress)

The young woman on the right represents the Lao Theung, the Lao of the mid-slopes. The young woman is wearing a sin and blouse that have been woven on a backstrap loom by Lao Theung ethnic groups like the Khmu. "The Lao Theung, or midland Lao, are of Austroasiatic origin and are probably the autochthonous inhabitants of Laos, having migrated northward in prehistoric times. Originally paddy rice farmers, they were displaced into the uplands by the migrations of the Lao Loum and in 1993 accounted for about 24 percent of the national population. The cultural and linguistic differences among the many Lao Theung groups are greater than those among the Lao Loum or Lao Sung, or upland Lao. Groups range from the Kammu (alternate spellings include Khamu and Khmu) and Lamet in the north, to the Katang and Makong in the center, to the Loven and Lawae in the far south." (Countrystudies - Library of Congress)

Here at Laos Essential Artistry we currently we don’t carry any of the textiles woven by the Lao Theung groups. For the most part these groups are located south of Vientiane and we have spent most of our time in the northern part of Laos. Their textiles are beautiful in their own right and in the future we are open to carrying selected textiles woven by Lao Theung ethnic groups that are woven on backstrap looms. We have added a section for Southern Laos/Lao Theung, so we're serious in expanding our textile selection southward...

The textiles we carry that are woven in the Vientiane area come from Taykeo Textile Gallery, Phaeng Mai Textile Gallery, Nong Bouatong, Hmong Story Cloths, our Market Scarves, some of our Sinhs and our own line of Nok Hong Kham scarves and sinhs. Khamla’s paintings and Lao Mountain Coffee also originate from Vientiane.