Profile of: IKTT, The Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles, Cambodia
Words & photos by Magali An Berthon
Hailing from Kyoto, Japan, Kikuo Morimoto (1948-2017) spent his early life working as a textile specialist, natural dyes expert and Kimono painter. He first visited Cambodia in the late 90s while working over the border in a refugee camp. Fascinated by the traditional weaving and dyeing techniques he saw, Kikuo embarked on a 20-plus-year journey to revive the art of hôl, Khmer ikat. Ikat, an Indonesian word meaning ‘knot’, is a specifictechnique of dyeing and weaving. The weft threads are first set out on a frame, tied in a regular pattern with banana leaves, and then soaked in successive dye baths. The knotted threads resist the dye and once unwrapped, reveal a complex pattern. The yarn is then carefully transferred onto the loom and installed as a warp.
Kikuo toured Cambodia for two full years and was able to track down a handful of women who still had knowledge of hôl. In 2002, they realized Kikuo’s vision and opened the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT), a centre of knowledge, teaching and textile production outside of Siem Reap. IKTT now employs approximately 800 people. A sister initiative, Project Wisdom for the Forest, is located an hour out of town at a place known simply as The Village. This is where natural and organic materials are harvested from 23 hectares of forest and cultivated gardens. Endemic mulberry trees are grown to support IKTT’s golden silkworms, and dye plants are harvested for use in hôl. These include Bixa Orellana, a spiny fruit with orange seeds, and indigo, which almost disappeared during Cambodia’s civil war. IKTT has made a significant impact on the preservation of hôl, helping Cambodian women pass down their knowledge of dyeing and weaving to the next generation. View the full article on Tissus & Artisans Du Monde.