In recent years, the local women’s union has worked with Jarai artisans to teach young people to make mats in order to preserve this traditional craft.
The Jarai weave mats from leaves of a wild pineapple called Pran. In the dry season, the men of Sung Lon hamlet cut pineapple leaves near the brooks and dry them in the sun to keep their original color.
When the rainy season comes, women stay indoors and weave Pran mats which are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
The Jarai people consider a Pran mat a valuable possession, used to serve guests on special occasions, such as funerals and weddings.
Ro Mah H’byu of Sung Lon hamlet said, “I learned to weave mats from my grandmother and mother when I was small. I’ll never stop doing it, because it’s our traditional craft. Very few young children want to learn the craft and I’m afraid it will fade out. I’m trying to uphold the tradition.”
Together with other old people in Sung Lon hamlet, Ro Mah H’Byu is teaching young Jarai girls traditional crafts. She tells them that Pran mats are not just useful items, they are the culture of the Jarai.
“Weaving mats is a craft of our ancestors. We cannot abandon it. You should learn it to uphold our culture,” said Ro Mah H’Byu.
The Women’s Union of Ia Dok commune opened a Pran Weaving Club with 20 members 2 years ago. They sell their products at exhibitions and trade fairs. Pran mats sell for 10 to 15 USD each, depending on their size.
Romah Nga of Sung Nho hamlet, a member of the Club, said: “I like to watch my mother and aunts weaving mats. Now I’m learning to make them. Our mats are made of natural materials and are cool to sit on.”
The Pran Club has infused a fresh sense of pride into the Jarai people. Now not only Jarai women but old men and children are making Pran mats.
Ro O H’Rin, Chairwoman of the Duc Co district Women’s Union, said, “We have encouraged them to preserve the mat craft and help them sell their products. But we need a larger-scale marketing effort.”