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Rattan weaving: the daily memory and inheritance of households

Cambodia, located in Southeast Asia, is a country with a rich artistic heritage. Siem Reap, where the world-famous heritage Angkor Wat is located, is also a hub of many art works, whether it is the famous Angkor Wat stone carvings, or common silk weaving available in many tourist areas. However, when it comes to the craftsmanship involved with local lives, Tbanh Kantrak (rattan weaving) is the most significant one.


The weaving process has been passed down for generations and can be called Cambodian cultural heritage. In recent years, workshops modify their product to trendy designs and produce exquisite, fashionable handmade rattan bags, woven plates and other delicate objects. Among them, the cutting-edge workshop MANAVA has the most refreshing design.

Brand Workshop|MANAVA

MANAVA comes from Sanskrit "मानव", which means "people". Their core concept of design is love, culture, and human. They hope to bring people closer through Cambodia’s traditional weaving and passing on the culture and handicrafts to the world.


MANAVA was established in 2016. The workshop is located in the village of Krobey Riel, 10 kilometers away from the city of Siem Reap. It was co-founded by Dutch Chinese designer Ka-Lai Chan and Cambodian Baraing Tho. The goal is to provide a sustainable life for Cambodian women.


The founders noticed that in Cambodia’s traditional weaving culture, the village named Krobey Riel has the most unique craft. In order to preserve the cultural heritage and help increase the income of the villagers, the founder Ka-Lai Chan contributed her talent, re-designed Cambodian traditional weaving with fashionable elements.

The founder Ka-Lai Chan(right) and co-founder Baraing Tho (left)

Design concept: the continuation of Khmer culture

MANAVA was inspired by the Cambodian culture "Kbach (ក្បាច់)". Kbach comes from the Khmer, refering to any form of artistic presentation of Cambodian culture, which is mostly used in architecture, pottery or temple carvings. Objects like the "Fish tooth' basket" originated from the pots and jars of the Angkor dynasty in the 12th century. At that time, the jars were mostly used to hold liquids such as water, wine or palm oil. This type of container has been passed down for hundreds of years. In 1991, MANAVA drew inspiration from it and created a unique weaving design.

MANAVA uses the vine plant called "pdau" and willow grass called "la paek" to make their product. These two plants grow fast and are very common in Cambodian, but MANAVA selects mainly the ones that grow in lakes and streams because they grow faster than those in the mountains and forests. From the selection of source material, MANAVA embraces the concept of environmental sustainability and considers the ecological impact of their production.

la paek


Empower the Community: The Social Impact on Cambodia

On average, a Cambodian family has 3-5 children. They spend about 20-30 US dollars per day, but the reality is often harsher. There is a significant urban-rural and rich-poor gap in Cambodia. Most of the poor people live in villages near urban area. The basic household income is only 50-70 US dollars per month, and the per capita daily income for most of them is less than 3 US dollars. Such families cannot survive any crisis.


Seeing the poverty, MANAVA chose Krobey Riel as the starting point. They provide stable income and education opportunities to local women. They focus on weaving culture and women’s empowerment, featuring high-quality boutiques with reasonable wages, and bring equality to women. They also cooperates with the Women’s Resource Center in Siem Reap to teach women’s life skills, provide education and training programs such as financial management, health care, and English.

In addition, MANAVA also cares about the connection between product and people. Every MANAVA piece is accompanied by the author’s signature. Through the object, the weaver and the buyer can build a form or interaction. Their connection is warm and meaningful.

Know your weaver

“I am capable of ANYTHING.” She smiles.

Mrs. Long Ya is the first weaver that joined MANAVA. She is experienced and teaching the crafts in the workshop now.

The workshop is located in the village of Krobey Riel, 10 kilometers away from the city of Siem Reap. They have more than 24 female weavers.


MANAVA workshop has more than 24 female weavers now. They hope that by the end of 2020, the workshop can be expanded to more than 50-100 women. They hope the brand can develop further. With the support of volunteers, designers, and consumers, the shop will eventually be run by Cambodian locals independently.

Select Monthly 05 - MANAVA Rattan Handicraft Cambodia