LAHU ETHNIC STOOLS
One of the earliest forms of furniture, stools are found in all cultures but ethnic styles have all too often been replaced with ubiquitous plastic. ThaiCraft has sought rare tribal artisans still crafting stools for their own communities in Thailand's northern hills to share their skills so we can all enjoy their traditional use of local, renewable materials and help preserve an ancient heritage.
Visit any tribal home and the chances are you will be offered a stool to sit on. It's a sign of welcome to a guest. Much more common and traditional are the low stools on which women embroider cloth and men enjoy a puff on their waterpipes. Higher stools, an adaptation for use with tables, and are not so easily found
The north-south mountain range along the Thai-Myanmar border area is populated by several different ethnic tribal groups. One of these, the Lahu, known locally as 'Museu' (มูเซอ – hunter), have their own language, beliefs and traditions though many have converted to Buddhism or Christianity. Farming the hillsides used to provide staple rice, supplement with forest products, wild animals and domestic pigs and poultry. Gradually, as the natural resources become depleted, these hardy people have become more reliant on cash crops and finding paid labour work.
Like many other tribes, the Lahu inherit a strong tradition of crafts, both decorative (as for their costumes) and functional (such as these stools). They are all created with practical purpose and wherever possible, nature provides most if not all the materials needed. While the women sew clothing with distinctive, colourful patterns, the men build sturdy wooden huts and most of the domestic artefacts for their families. These days, some specialise in certain skills to supplement their income. These stools are made by a small group of men who make and the carry them, often long distances by foot, to sell to neighbouring communities. In spite of recent changes, the Lahu confidently stay close to their traditions and to preserving the natural environment which is their home.