TITLE: Flower My Belts: How the Kam people of China preserved the earliest weaving

DIRECTOR: Marie Anna Lee
GENRE: Short Documentary
LENGTH: 16:51 minutes

LOGLINE: Women in remote Dimen Village reveal ancient weaving tradition that predates all looms ever found in archaeological sites.

SYNOPSIS: An art professor and her students apprentice with an artisan from the Kam minority people in China to learn to set up the backstrap loom and weave on it.

The loom technology is some of the earliest in the world predating more complex frame looms. The loom is very simple, portable yet can manage complex patterns. 

The artisan first demonstrates the set up and weaving. The team then learns to weave on it and  passes the skill to the next generation of weavers at home, preserving the knowledge for the future.


Wowen on simple backstrap looms, the silk belts tie Kam costumes. The weaver's skill increased her marriageability because it reflected on her future husband.

WHY IT IS UNIQUE: Kam backstrap weaving uses a different technology than other cultures. The loom is simpler, easier to transport yet capable of intricate patterns. Weavers will appreciate learning the technique while general audience will enjoy the ancient culture still in existance and the relatability of the artisans.   

WHY IT MATTERS: The women have kept passing this sacred knowledge from generation to generation for thousands of years preserving evidence of the earliest weaving processes that cannot be learned from archaeological evidence or written documents. Yet, the young generation has not learned the process and the knowledge will be lost once the elderly artisans pass away.

WHY IT WILL SUCCEED: The film takes the audience into a secluded pre-industrial community and shows them a lifestyle and artisanal practices that have been lost elsewhere. The researchers bridge cultural differences persuading the artisans to share their millennia-old heritage with the outside world. At the end, the audience becomes part of the solution as they are entrusted with the knowledge to continue the tradition.


Marie Anna Lee is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of the Pacific in California, USA. She has worked on the cultural preservation of Kam indigenous heritage since 2007, and received the 2013 and 2014 SEED (Social Environmental Economic Design) Award honorable mention for excellence in public interest design for her work in Dimen.  

As part of the Kam delegation from Dimen, Lee presented at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, in 2014. She taught at the Public Interest Design Institute in Denver in 2013 and presented her research at numerous national and international conferences, and has co-authored multiple articles in global monetary history. 

She has also exhibited her art in the USA, China, and the Czech Republic. Lee holds a BFA and an MFA in Graphic Design from Colorado State University, USA, and a BA in Advertising from Michigan State University, USA.