To the Bahnar ethnic minority, the long communal house, a variation of the stilt houses unique to the Central Highlands region, is an invaluable part of their culture and a symbol of pride.
To teach future generations about the symbolic meaning of the traditional house, an artisan in Plei Kte Village in the central province of Gia Lai has weaved many miniature communal houses from bamboo wicker.
The tiny ethnic houses have become unique souvenirs for visitors to the locality and provide their maker Dinh Nhieu with a stable source of income.
Nhieu, 68, learned how to use bamboo to make household wicker utensils from his father when he was 13 and has been pursuing the craft ever since.
He is among the few bamboo-weaving artisans in the village.
With his skillful hands, Nhieu has weaved a variety of items such as baskets, pots and mats. But the most impressive are the tiny communal houses with the typical designs and sophisticated patterns.
“I had to carefully study the traditional houses’ design to perfect my products. The hardest thing was learning how to assemble the structure of a real home into a miniature. It took me a while to create my first one,” he said.
The artisan also paints colours on bamboo strips to make his miniature houses more eye-catching and highlight their patterns.
Besides the traditional houses, another of his best-selling products are bamboo-woven backpacks.
“I used to weave simple baskets to carry farm or forest products. After seeing a woman using it to hold colourful handloom fabrics, I came up with the idea to decorate the backpacks with patterns and make it sturdier by weaving two layers,” he said.
Nhieu contributes to preserving the craft by frequently holding free classes at his house where young villagers can learn basic bamboo weaving techniques.
Nay Bang, chief of Plei Kte Village said: “Nhieu used to be the chairman of the Farmers’ Association of Phu Thien district. When he retired, he came up with many ideas to create products to preserve our cultural values, one of which was the miniature communal houses.” — Vietnam News/ANN