Born and raised in the highland Karen State of Burma, 35-year-old Mu Mu, has been weaving since she was young. In order to have clothes in her remote and agricultural upbringing, she says that they had to be made due to lack of stores and availability. Therefore, when she was ten years old, she learned the traditional art of weaving from her grandmother to make clothing. Unfortunately, due to the ethnic cleansing war and the chronic insecurity in her homeland, the Karen State of Burma*, she and her husband fled away from her village shortly after their marriage
In 2005, Mu Mu along with her husband resettled in Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand. Yearning for a better life, Mu Mu and her husband, and three children, were granted an opportunity to resettle in the United States around the year 2011. She arrived in Houston, Texas with only: wooden pieces of loom, some weaving supplies, and incomparable weaving knowledge.
Upon arrival to the United States she wanted to go to school, study, and learn English but found it very difficult to do so due to economic reasons. However, she learned about The Community Cloth and joined our program in 2012. Mu Mu has sold nearly 130 items totaling nearly $5,000 worth of supplemental income. Not only does she enjoy earning money for her family, but she says that “this job helps me keep my culture.” In an environment with so many new experiences, she enjoys putting on her back strap loom and making clothes like she did with her grandmother back in Burma.
In the beginning, Mu Mu was very silent but always smiling. Over the years she has developed into her own and even has plans to teach other Karen Burmese refugees the art of back strap weaving because “In US, we don’t have anything that is Karen so we need to teach others so we at least have our clothes.”
*The Karen Conflict (1949-present) has been known as the “longest civil war in the world”. Within Burma, also known as Myanmar, the Karen Nationalist movement have been fighting for independence and autonomy against the Myanmar government. The government sees this group as rebels that must be controlled which has produced fighting between these two sides for over 60 years. Unfortunately, most of the fighting has taken place in the modern day Karen state, leaving civilians caught in the crossfire. Only a small portion of the Karen population actually live within the state while many of the Karen and other ethnic groups have been killed in the conflict. The “lucky ones” have been forced to flee their state and all of their possessions to seek refuge in Thailand. To learn more about the Karen people and the conflict click here.