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  • Writer's pictureAhtaram Shin

Rohingya textile innovation: A muffler design rich in Rohingya cultural history

Updated: Apr 1

Written by Ahtaram Shin. Designed by Mayyu Khan.

2023 © Designed by Mayyu Khan

Mayyu Khan is a Rohingya artist and cultural activist who possesses a unique medium for thinking and feeling rooted in Rohingya history, language and culture by his innovative and artistic views. He recently designed a scarf that includes several Rohingya cultural elements.

"I aim to encapsulate all major historical and cultural elements within a single frame of the scarf, highlighting their importance artistically to portray the positive influence of art, culture, and history in the life of Rohingya. The most positive point of this muffler is diversity, regardless of gender or age, colour and nationality. This scarf transcends specific demographics and is suitable for all occasions and seasons to wear." – Mayyu Khan said.

See below the cultural and historical elements depicted in the muffler design:

1. Arakanor furan rasa – Ancient business route of Arakan bordering Southeast Asia

From ancient times, Arakan has served as a crucial hub for trade and travel across Asia, connecting regions such as China, India, Middle east and Europe. With its main harbor facilitating multi-access routes, Arakan was essential for commerce and transportation. As Rohingya, we regard the symbol of the border road as significant, reflecting the historical importance of this ancient route.

2. Dhánór sorá – Rice paddy

In Arakan, rice is the main food of Rohingya and other ethnic groups to sustain their livelihoods. As Rohingya, we prefer to use the Rice paddy (Danor Sorá) as a symbol of livelihood and sustenance since a very ancient time.

3. Lotha fulór sabá – Rohingya floral design

In Rohingya culture, we embrace unique architectural and woven patterns for decorations. One prominent design is the floral pattern, known as Lota ful (creeper flowers), which we incorporate into various aspects of our lives such as female thabi, mosques, house walls, tables, boats, and other places. This intricate design showcases our artistry and creativity.

4. Fañs Kuñça – Five pillars of Islam

As Rohingya, our identity is fundamentally rooted in Islam. The Rohingya faith is Islam, which profoundly influences our beliefs and values as Muslims. Throughout history, various ethnic groups such as Rakhine, Hindu, Burmese, Arab, Turkish, and others have settled in Arakan, embracing the Islamic faith as part of their religious and ethnic identity. Within the Rohingya community, there exists a diverse range of DNA and genes. Therefore, religion is considered one of our primary identities and symbols. Consequently, the Five Pillars of Islam hold significant importance as a core symbol within our community.

5. Ruáingá zuban – Rohingya language

Our community possesses a unique and rich language, which serves as a vital aspect of Rohingya history, culture, and traditions. Despite facing historical aggression politically, socially, and culturally, we continue to cherish and explore our linguistic heritage. This journey has not been without challenges, leading us to sometimes resort to scripts in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Burmese, and even English. In ancient times, the Rohingya had their own script, which is still preserved on the walls of Pattorkila (Mrauk U). Upholding our language, I have portrayed several beautiful and uplifting words in this tapestry in our language Hanif scripts.

6. Berár Za – Fence Pattern

The Rohingya community boasts a distinctive fence pattern, still prevalent in various contexts, including the compound bamboo wall fence pattern known as 'Zoli ar Tiñyaça,' as well as in house walls and roofs. This pattern symbolizes protection, security, privacy, and cover within our culture. However, in the political sphere, the fence can also represent oppressive borders, restrictions, and barriers to freedom of movement.

7. Boddoriyar goir – Waves of Bay of Bengal

The entire Arakan state is located in the coastal area. We, Rohingya, are mostly known for our connection to the sea and have many livelihoods and professions associated with it. Despite facing oppression and torture, we persist, likening ourselves to the important waves of the sea. Just as the Bay of Bengal experiences significant climate changes, it remains vital and significant in Asia. Similarly, despite numerous challenges faced by the Rohingya, they continue to resist, struggle for survival, and seek justice as important as the Bay of Bangal sea waves.

8. Bet-horor Za – Woven pattern

There are two elements in woven patterns. Firstly, we have intricate bamboo designs used in basketry, farming tools, bamboo walls, embroidery, and needlework. Secondly, there's a distinct skill displayed in clothing with various styles and embroidery patterns. These elements illuminate the richness of our traditional craftsmanship. So that we use the woven pattern as a symbol Rohingya's art skill.

9. Arakanór Bor murá – Arakan Mountain

The Arakan Mountains hold significant historical and geographical importance as they serve as a border between Arakan and Burma. Generations of Rohingya have lived alongside these mountains, drawing lessons and inspiration from their towering presence. Despite facing challenges and difficulties, the Rohingya have never lost hope, inspiration, or patience, much like the enduring stature of the Arakan Mountains. We look to these mountains as a symbol of strength and resilience, inspiring us to strive for a positive future, reclaim our rights, and remain steadfast in our resolve.

"As an artist, I firmly believe that using this symbolic design demonstrates respect, solidarity, and sympathy towards the Rohingya cause." – Mayyu Khan said.

To sum up about the Rohingya, as they continue to face daily challenges and losses from all sides chronologically, which is deeply troubling and lost. However, amidst this struggle, the world began to assist Rohingya in seeking justice and restoration. To further amplify their support and solidarity towards this marginalised and oppressed community, both Rohingya and non Rohingya can utilize this symbol when addressing Rohingya context in the conference, meeting, TV anchoring and so on. By doing so, you show a great solidarity to their deep rooted history, identity, and culture.



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