Arts and Crafts

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The umbrella industry of Pathein, the capital of the Ayeyarwaddy Division of Myanmar's delta region, is well known in Myanmar. This cottage industry was established in Pathein over a hundred years ago. The first umbrellas were made of paper, in the course of time and experience; the makers became innovative and began to produce umbrellas with canopies of cottons, silk and satin with attractive floral designs. These newly fashioned umbrellas gained popularity with the ladies and sales expanded to the whole country. The umbrella attracts foreigners to buy as souvenirs or for interior decoration on walls and for use as unique lampshades. The production of the Pathein umbrella is more or less a family industry, and there is division of labour in the making of a single umbrella. Each pathein-02worker is assigned a different task, with one responsible for making the framework of ribs and another the shaft, with still others making the canopy, the grip, the ferrule or the hub which holds the ribs together, and even the wedge or switch for opening and closing the umbrella. Each person works separately and is a specialist in his own line of work.

The shaft and ribs of the umbrella are made of bamboo and the ferrule and grip from softwood locally known as "Ma-U Thit". The raw materials of bamboo and wood are obtained from the lower hill slopes of the Rakhine Yoma Mountain Range near Chaungtha, which is close to Pathein.

pathein-03When all the different parts made by different craftsmen are ready, they are put together to make an umbrella. Then the canopy, dyed in pastel shades of mauve, pink, green and blue to deflect the sunlight, are attached to the frame, but there are a few darker shades too, such as black, dark blue and bottle green. When the canopy has been fixed to the rib frame, small flowers of varying shapes and colours are painted on the background colour.

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