by Chie Suzuki, ARUN Partner
I am always happy to see a person who is wearing his/her traditional clothes, because I feel the pride toward his or her culture and the way of life. Traveling to places such as Taiwan, Bhutan, Indonesia and remote islands of Okinawa in search of dyeing and weaving that is rooted in their culture, I was inspired to wear my own traditional clothes from Japan.
■My Encounter with Cambodian Multi-Purpose Cloth, Krama
My wardrobe of kimonos is not yet large, but one of my favorites is a kimono made with Krama, a cloth from Cambodia. I heard that people in Cambodia use Krama in their daily living in many ways, such as for wearing as skirts, aprons, wrapping around head, wrapping goods and transporting them, as well as using it even as a hammock. My instructor for kimonos who started a kimono brand called Ponnalet has introduced me to the cloth. Ponnalet works with the local workshops to increase the employment and increase their cash revenue. As for the name of the brand, it is named after a former Cambodian refugee, Ms. Ponnalet Kugo.
■Imagining From the Touch of the Cloth
Although I am an ARUN partner, I have never been to Cambodia. When I experience the usefulness and the softness of the Kramar cloth, though, I feel as if I can have a glimpse of daily lives of people living in Cambodia. I imagine that the cloth is so soft that babies feel good in it, that it will be used casually as skirts and shawls as it can be washed easily with water and dry quickly when soiled, and that the weaver of the cloth must have taken all such use into consideration when weaving.
To tell the truth, when I first learned about the cloth “used by Cambodians in their daily lives,” my first impression was that of a shawl wrapped around a boy soldier’s neck who is holding a gun. An image from a news photo of a country in civil war has become a reality, and has activated my imagination about the lives of the people there.
■What the Trade Weave
I think that living in Japan, far from Cambodia, my experience of imagining local lives through the goods which is Kramer kimono, is unique and make my life richer.
What is gained from the trade is not only the practical side of the goods but also the tangible and intangible communications between the producers and the consumers, a product gained from understanding the background behind the trade and imagining the original usage in the place where they came from.
I think that ARUN’s activities include not only providing funds for management and expand employment through investment, but also receiving great “investment returns” through sympathy towards the lives of the local people, and as a person who is also making a living here, thinking what we can share.
Sahacreas Sedac is another example. Not only by investing, but also by supporting the import of wild honey to Japan, promotes a deeper understanding of local environmental problems and the rural communities. So is Frangipani Villa Hotel where we can actually stay and by receiving direct services by the employees, we can think about their lives and challenges.
With typical investment funds, it will be difficult to experience such a degree of affinity. I am looking forward to becoming more involved with ARUN’s investment through the power of imagination.
About the photo:
My kimono is hand-woven kramer, the belt is hand-waved silk from Laos and Cambodia, and my bag is made with Thai silk. It looks like a traditional Japanese outfit, but the main materials are traditional Southeast Asian.