Meet Ibrahim, One Story of Resurgence of Thatch Weaving Among Laamu’s Elderly

MV+ News Desk | November 29, 2023

“I didn’t want to stay idle at home. Weaving seemed like a meaningful way to pass the time, and little did I know, it would become my passion.” says 70 year old Ibrahim Ali, one of the many older men in Laamu atoll who have embraced the tradition of thatch weaving again much later in life.

Like many older men on the island, Ibrahim’s passion for weaving reemerged as a response to the solitude imposed after the 2021 pandemic. More older men participate in this craft than women.

In a landscape where competition is fierce, Ibrahim emphasises the importance of being the first to gather coconut leaves. 

He notes, “It’s all about timing. The quality of the thatches depends on being the earliest to collect the leaves. Once tied and left on the ground, others will not touch them.”

For Ibrahim, weaving is not just a trade; it’s a journey that started practically, with him crafting thatches for his own home. Reflecting on those early days, he says, “I began by weaving for my own roof. Each foot of thatch required 30 coconut leaves. It was a hands-on way to connect with the tradition.”

Despite not being the fastest weaver, Ibrahim’s dedication shines through. He remarks, “I might not be the quickest, but I manage to produce around two 8ft sheets every day. It’s a slow and steady process, but it’s rewarding.”

Sales to nearby resorts, occurring roughly every three months, bring a fluctuating income. Ibrahim, with a hint of humor, comments on the changing prices, “I started selling at MVR 80, but now it’s MVR 95. Prices might change, but the satisfaction of creating something does not.”

Wearing gloves during weaving is not just a preference for Ibrahim; it’s a necessity. Protection against potential germs and moisture ensures the longevity of both his craft and his fingers. “It’s a practical choice. You have to take care of your hands to keep weaving,” he adds.

Thatch weaving, traditionally associated with the older generation, is seeing a resurgence. Resorts purchasing these handwoven products are bringing the craft to the forefront. 

Ibrahim reflects on this shift, “It’s great to see resorts appreciating our tradition. Thatch weaving is more than a craft; it’s a piece of our heritage.”

Ibrahim’s story is emblematic of the many older men who, in their golden years, have embraced the art of fangivinun in Laamu Atoll—a testament to the enduring spirit of tradition and the resilience of island communities.