Light­ing up Man­dalay

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - HLAING KYAW SOE hlaingkyaw­soe@mm­

THE tra­di­tional Myan­mar lantern is a pop­u­lar dec­o­ra­tion for many house­holds around the coun­try – es­pe­cially lead­ing up to Thad­ingyut (Oc­to­ber 14 to 16), the fes­ti­val of lights.

Ko Phoe Kyaw, a lo­cal craftsper­son known for his bam­boo-framed lanterns, is now busy at work in Man­dalay’s Maha Aung Myay town­ship.

But he told The Myan­mar Times that mak­ing lanterns is an art form from an­other era, as fewer and fewer peo­ple make them each year.

“In the past, nearly the whole ward worked as lantern mak­ers. But now, only three or four make them here. Some peo­ple start up their busi­ness close to the fes­ti­val but they don’t spend all their days mak­ing lanterns,” he said.

Ma Kyi Kyi Htay, also a lo­cal lantern maker said, “Chi­nese-made lanterns and toy cars are also big in the mar­ket, but lo­cal hand­made lanterns and toy cars are still very pop­u­lar.”

Lo­cal crafts­peo­ple face the chal­lenge of get­ting enough bam­boo to make their products, she added.

Bam­boo is the main raw ma­te­rial of the busi­ness and of­ten crafts­peo­ple can­not import enough to meet the de­mands of the mar­ket.

“And this busi­ness can’t earn a reg­u­lar in­come. That’s why the num­ber of peo­ple do­ing it is de­creas­ing,” she said.

One of the most pop­u­lar and recog­nis­able lanterns is the car-framed lantern with wheels.

To make them, crafts­peo­ple frame the cars with bam­boo sticks and then at­tach dif­fer­ent coloured poly­thene pa­per, ac­cord­ing to Ko Phoe Kyaw.

Other toy lanterns come in var­i­ous shapes, in­clud­ing air­planes, ships, rab­bits, and horse and bug­gies, and range from K500 to K10, 000.

Ma Thi­dar, an­other lantern and toy seller in Man­dalay, said she “sells both lo­cally made lanterns and Chi­ne­se­made lanterns.”

“Myan­mar tra­di­tional lanterns are some of the best-sell­ers and the sales are high close to the fes­ti­val.”

Though Myan­mar tra­di­tional lantern mak­ers must com­pete with Chi­nese-made lanterns and a dwin­dling ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the art, many busi­nesses re­ported that the sale of lo­cal colour­ful pa­per lanterns is on the rise as time inches closer to Thad­ingyut.

Lantern sales rise be­fore Thad­ingyut.

A craftsper­son works in his Man­dalay shop.

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