Language Group: Sino-Tibetan
Project start date: 2010
The Lanten are the indigo masters of Laos, in fact their name Lanten means ‘those that dye cloth’ in Chinese. They migrated from China around one hundred years ago. There are only eleven Lanten villages in Laos. With a population of around 6,500, they are one of the smallest of all the ethnic groups in the country.
In 2017 Mrs. Kham from Bokeo province was the first Lanten woman to visit Peru. She went to Cusco with Ock Pop Tok to a gathering of weavers from all over the world. Mrs. Kham was representing the language, culture and handicrafts of the Lanten.
The work of the Lanten is characterized by finely spun and tightly woven organic cotton, expertly dyed with indigo. The Lanten traditional dress features dark blue almost black trousers and long tunics. This outfit is highly distinctive and is accented by long pink silk yarns that drape from the collar.
Our project with the Lanten started in 2010 at the request of the Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA). We developed handicraft product training programmes for both their cotton weavings and bamboo papermaking.
Culture & Lifestyle in Ban Namchang, as told to us by Mrs. Mone
Ban Namchang is home to only 38 families, all from the Lanten ethnic group. They are 18 kilometers away from Houy Xai, the closest city.
Even if the men mostly work in the rice farm and take care of their animals — cows, buffalos, chicken, duck and pigs — the women divide their time between the rice farm and textiles. They are up early every morning and after a quick breakfast of freshly cooked sticky rice, they spend part of their day farming. It is only after dinner time, in the evening, that they sit down to spin, weave or embroider. They embroider mostly flowers and animals like elephants or fish.
The main income in the village remains textiles. They mostly work on coasters, placemats, scarves, fabric, men and women shirts and bags. Quite a range… But they also get some income from the trade of animals; chicken, duck and pigs.
The younger people in the village dress in a more western way — pants and shirts from local markets — but the older people still dress in their traditional Lanten outfit on a daily basis. But when comes Lanten New Year, everyone wears their traditional clothes. They celebrate the new year at the same time as Chinese New Year, usually in February.
During special occasions, to the beloved sticky rice is added the traditional Kheng Lam Pork — a sort of soup — and sour bamboo soup with pork. They dance and sing. Stories about their life but also men sing for women… And the kids have a blast playing some games like throwing balls and spinning tops which might sound familiar to many kids around the world and then the more traditional Lao games like trying to get as many tamarind seeds as possible in a whole in the ground using only one finger.