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A Master Revives Textile Traditions in Cambodia

A Master Revives Textile Traditions in Cambodia

In 2010 I travelled to SE Asia, having the chance to stop in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I'd always wanted to visit Cambodia and my wish became a reality. Part of my interest in going to Cambodia was to meet Dr. Kiku Morimoto, who was awarded the prestigious ROLEX Award in 2014 for his work in creating the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles

Dr. Morimoto is an accomplished Japanese artist and master of kimono painting and natural dyes. Before going to Cambodia, he spent a number of years in the refugee camps of Thailand teaching natural dyeing.

In the early 1990's he was asked by UNESCO World Heritage to revive the art of traditional weaving, natural dyes and silk production in Cambodia. This initially proved daunting as textile traditions had been destroyed by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, which reigned from 1975 to 1979 and was portrayed in the movie, "The Killing Fields." Slowly and diligently Dr. Morimoto sought out older weavers from across the country who had survived the Khmer Rough regime and retained the knowledge and skills of traditional textile crafts. He gathered these artisans together and created a village he named the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles. 

I called Dr. Morimoto from the town of Siem Reap to see if we could visit him at the institute. He said, "Yes come." We hired a local driver and found our way to the famous institute.

Rural Cambodia, on our way to see Dr. Morimoto. It was hot and dry - as you can see. 

Exotic landscape - on our way to the textile institute. 

Precious water in a dry land. A local woman pumps water for her family. 

After several hours we arrived at the institute. Dr. Morimoto welcomed us and gave us a tour. 

Dr. Morimoto and I sitting on the porch having tea. 

 It was the Khmer New Year's holiday and many of the weavers and dyers were away to their homes far up country. But there were still a few remaining and we were glad to be able to see them. 


Dr. Morimoto was gracious and invited us to view the premises. Here he shows us a vat for dyeing indigo.  

Another view of the indigo vat.

Indigo plants that will eventually be harvested and used for dyeing. 

A woman prepares the thread for weaving ikat fabric. She is wrapping the warp (the length-wise threads of the loom) to create an intricate design. Delicate work indeed. 

 Weaving silk ikat. 

A close-up of delicate silk ikat weaving on the loom. 


The showroom at the Institute. 

A traditional Cambodian ikat weaving mounted on the wall. 

Annatto plant used for dyeing the silk. 

Wooden spools for reeling silk. 


The institute was serene and beautiful. Here the pet dog rests in the shade for a reprieve from the hot sun. 


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