My trip to meet the Bo Y in 2015 was full of adventure. I spent a whole day going round and round in one area and ended up feeling like I was trapped in a labyrinth because everything looked the same. I had to ask a number of strangers to help me find my way and then to make things even more interesting, my motorbike key got stuck in the ignition! One by one, people came to help me and the show of support from the locals quickly melted away all frustration.
The woman in this picture is 73-year-old Lu Thi Phung. When I asked her if she had one of the Bo Y traditional costumes, she beamed with pride. She said she’s the last one in her community who can still make it entirely by hand. I returned in 2019 to give her a copy of The Precious Heritage Museum book with her portrait in it, and had the chance to learn a little bit more about her while she tinted fabric with indigo dye. She told me that she’d spent her entire life in the village. She was engaged at 12 years old and married at 17. She is able to complete four to five costumes per year, and is saddened by the fact that even though the garments are still made in the village, but much of the work is no longer done by hand. The younger generation seems uninterested in learning the old traditions. When one sees the depth of the hand-dyed fabric, the intricate patchwork, embroidery and elaborate beading, one can’t help but feel that her history is sewn into each detail.