Posts Tagged ‘Burma


Vintage Bobbie whistles from Burma, courting balls from the Hmong

Yes, really.  We are putting them out today.  We have four vintage whistles used by the Rangoon police while the British were still in Burma, now known as Myanmar.  Where else in Decatur will you find these?  There are only 4 of them at $30 each, so you’ll have to act fast!  Maybe the ideal Mother’s Day gift for keeping the youngsters in line or to call everyone to the dinner table?

And we also have the essential tool for playing pov pob, a Hmong courting game played by young folks in Laos.  What do you need?  A single simple cotton ball, made from scraps of indigo batik fabric.  Girls and boys line up to face each other and toss the ball back and forth to those who catch their eye.  If no one tosses to you, or if someone drops or refuses to catch your toss– heartbreak.  The game is played during Hmong New Year at the time of the full moon in November.

We’ll soon be posting more about the Hmong people and about some of their beautiful crafts and artifacts we have in the store.  In the meantime, you may want to read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman, the Mingei Book Club selection for May.  It is available at Mingei for $15.00.  We will meet at the store on Tuesday, May 11 at 7:30 pm.  Everyone is welcome!


The Nats are coming

Nats?  Nats, not gnats.  Gnats will be in Georgia soon enough.  What are these “Nats”  and what planet do they come from?

A vintage Nat that passed through Mingei once upon a time

Nats are nature spirits that pre-date Buddhism in Burma, but are now worshipped along with Buddhist traditions or at least acknowledged and placated by people who also practice Buddhism.  They are spirits of mountains, of lakes and trees, of birds, but also the spirits of  people who died violent or premature deaths, otherwise known as “green ghosts” in Burma– spirits who suffered traumatic deaths and therefore cannot leave this plane.  There are countless nats, but they were consolidated by an 11th century Burmese king into a more manageable pantheon of 37.  Many families or communities may honor and tend to additional nats, however.  Many of these are local nats they feel must not be ignored.

Nats are very powerful, and easily disturbed.  They appreciate receiving offerings.  In fact, if you are not attentive to them, they may cause mischief, or worse.  When a large number of traffic accidents take place on a certain stretch of road, a shrine may be built to the Nat thought to be causing the problem, in hopes that the accidents will stop.

Nats can also be helpful to those who honor them.  Shrines to Nats are commonly built in homes, at crossroads, and at central worship sites.  People offer them gifts, food and drink to keep them happy and helpful.

If you’d like to set up your own Nat shrine, or just enjoy a beautifully carved figure and the interesting cultural and religious traditions they represent, have we got a Nat for you!  At least, we will soon.  After many years of not being able to find good-quality Nat figures in Thailand, where they find their way from Burma or Myanmar, several of our vendors had wonderful examples,  so we gathered quite a few.  We are very excited about the quality and affordability of these Nat figures  and look forward to sharing them with you.

When they arrive and are unpacked,  we will post the stories of these particular Nats ( as we can determine) and their photos.

In the meantime, to put you in a “natty” mood, you may want to read Amy Tan’s novel Saving Fish From Drowning or the amazing memoir by Pascal Khoo Thwe called From The Land of Green Ghosts (A Mingei Book Club selection from last year.  Both are available at Mingei and both are fascinating views into Burmese culture, and Nats.

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