Australia has a population of approximately 22 million and mainland Australia covers an area of 7.69 million square kilometres, making it the Earth’s largest island but its smallest continent. It is approximately 4000 km from east to west and 3700 km from south to north. Australia ranks second out of 169 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. This rank hides the great disparity and is in stark contrast to the Indigenous Australian population, which ranks 103 on the Index.
Approximately 2.5 % of the population of Australia is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
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Bangladesh (officially the People’s Republic of Bangladesh) straddles the low-lying, fertile Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta and has a land area of 144,000 square kilometres and a population of 158 million. This makes it the seventh most populous country and is among the most densely populated countries in the world with a high poverty rate. It ranks 146th out of 182 countries in the Human Development Index and has an infant mortality rate of 59 deaths per 1,000 live births Together with West Bengal, Bangladesh makes up the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. It has a short border with Burma, the rest is bordered by India on most wides and the Bay of Bengal to the south.
The majority (98%) of the population are ethnic Bengalis, the remainder are mostly Biharis and indigenous tribal groups. The National language is Bengali and the main religion is Islam with a significant minority practicing Hinduism. Bangladesh handicrafts focuses on textiles and pottery. New enterprises are springing up to produce eco and recycled products for the handicraft market.
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The Kingdom of Cambodia is bordered by Thailand to the west and northwest, Lao to the north, Vietnam to the ease and the Gulf of Thailand to the south. Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong River and has a land area of 181,000 sq km lying entirely in the tropics. It has a population of approximately 15.5 million, 80% of which engage in subsistence farming.
The Human Development Index ranks Cambodia 137 of the 182 countries. Infant mortality in Cambodia stands at 54.79 deaths per 1000 live births.
Theravada Buddhism is the major religion. The country’s official language is Khmer and 90% of Cambodia’s population is of Khmer origin.
Cambodia has a rich culture with the following factors contributing: Theravada Buddhism, French Colonialism, Hinduism, Angkor era culture and modern globalisation. The culture and handicrafts are distinctive and diverse and include lowland ethnic majority and the 20 culturally distinct hill tribes’ handicrafts. Art and crafts in Cambodia can be traced back to the ancient days when god-kings established the huge monuments of Angkor. . Some of these ancient traditions of Khmer ancestors are weaving, basket making, wood carving, silver working and stone sculpting. Today Cambodia is becoming known for its traditional and contemporary crafts these small-scale businesses play an important role in helping people to leave poverty behind and earn income for themselves and provide for their families.
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India is a country that has enormous appeal to many people, myself included. Part of the appeal is the amazing diversity in geography, culture and climate. It is second only to Africa in linguistic, genetic and cultural diversity.
It is the second most populous country in the world with over 1.18 billion people (2010) and is projected to be the world’s most populous country by 2025. India is a historically ancient country, but demographically very young – 50% of the population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% is below 35.
On the UNDP Human Development Index India ranks 134 of the 182 countries in the world and is classified as a medium HDI country. Within India the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south and Punjab in the north usually have the highest HDI and the north-eastern states of Assam and Bihar the lowest. India has slipped relative to other countries in the region – it ranked 128 and 126 in the preceding two years. But in real terms it’s HDI value has improved. The infant mortality rate is still high at 30.15 deaths per 1000 love births. Interesting but not surprising given the attitudes to female children the infant death rate for females is 34.6 per 1000 compared to 25.17 per 1000 for males.
The colour and richness of the culture is evident in the more than 2000 ethnic groups with 1652 languages and dialects spoken. The religious mix includes, in descending order, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains.
While India has a quickly growing affluent middle class, 22% of the population live under the poverty line.
The myriad of craft traditions in India depends on social, economic and regional factors and handicraft owes much to the rich craft traditions of the past. The first references to Indian handicrafts go back almost 5000 years to the Indus Valley Civilisation. India’s craft traditions have withstood numerous foreign invasions and still continue to flourish, grow and change to meet the needs of the time while maintaining the traditional essence.
Much of India’s handicraft is of practical origin and has continued to flourish due to its utilitarian nature and popularity in domestic and foreign markets. Most craft has revolved around religious beliefs, local needs of the people and the special needs of upper class and royalty. It is distinguished by great aesthetics with intricate designs and patterns.
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Laos is a landlocked country bordered by Burma, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Laos has a land area of 236,800 sq km and the population is close to 7 million. The population is diverse with 49 broad ethnic groups recognised by the Government of Laos and four major linguistic groups. Lao-Tai is the largest language group and consists of eight ethnic groups. The Lao-Tai form approximately 35% of the total population and are culturally dominant. The hill people and minority ethnic groups such as the Hmong, Yao, Dao, Shan and several Tibeto-Burman speaking peoples have lived in isolated regions of Laos for many years. Laos’ official language is Lao and younger Lao have English as their second language.
On the Human Development Index Laos is ranked 133 out of 182 countries. The infant mortality rate is 77.76 deaths per 1000 live births Laos has the youngest population of any country in Asia with a median age of 19.3 years. The economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture and 80% of the population relies on this for survival.
The dominant religion of Laos is Theravada Buddhism and Lao handicraft and although many elements of the Lao culture predate Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism has heavily influenced art and handicrafts. There is an enormous diversity of cultures, which make up the Lao nation and this finds distinctive artistic expression in the thriving crafts industry. As elsewhere in the region, Lao crafts traditionally have been an expression of the ritual or functional need. Some of the more popular handicrafts are the traditional ethnic Hmong weaving and other traditional products. The most famous Lao craft is hand-woven textiles made from locally produced cotton and silk. The best weavings are usually associated with religious occasions and the motifs in Lao textiles often include thousand year old symbols such as Tantric diamonds providing protection from evil spirits. Laos now abounds with small handicraft businesses with around 26000 registered with the government. The handicrafts sector is very important to the Lao economy.
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Nepal is a beautiful, diverse and fascinating country and culture. It is the meeting point of different tectonic forces and cultures. The meeting of the Indian Subcontinent and mainland Asia has formed the Himalayas. It is the collision point of Hinduism and Buddhism and of Tibeto-Burmese language group and the Indo-European, and a meeting of Central Asian culture and Indian culture.
Nepal lags behind the level of development of its neighbours in South Asia. About half the population love below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. The United Nations ranks Nepal 144th out of the worlds 182 countries on its Human Development Index. In 2010 the infant mortality rate was 47.46 deaths per 1000 live births. This is a decrease from 62 per 1000 in 2008.
Its development has just broken out of a 10-year hiatus (or backward slide), a result of Maoist insurgency and political instability. The Nepali Civil War was a conflict between government forces and Maoist rebels which lasted from 1996-2006. During this time it is estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 people were internally displaced as a result of the conflict. The majority of rural development activities were disrupted or ceased and the nation’s economy suffered.
The country is struggling to come to terms with the social devastation incurred during those 10 years. The new government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal formed between 2006-2008 has its work cut out for it.
Approximately 30 million people live in Nepal on a land area of 147,000 square kilometres. The capital Kathmandu has a population of just fewer than one million. Nepal is a land locked country bounded by India in the west, south and east, and China-occupied Tibet in the north. It contains more than 240 mountain peaks over 6,000 metres and has eight of the world’s ten highest mountains including the highest Sagarmatha, known in English as Mount Everest.
The demographics are complicated not only by dozens of ethnic groups but also by different castes, which also function as ethnic groups. There are a total of 103 ethnic groups. According to the new Nepali constitution all national languages can be used as official languages and there are over 100 recognised languages. The most commonly used are Nepali (Gurkhali or Khaskura) and Nepal Bhasa (Newari). Nepali is spoken by 60% of Nepalis.
Although 80% of the population are Hindu and 11% Buddhist many Nepali people combine Hindu and Buddhist practice and many temples are shared between the two religions.
It is this rich multi-dimensional cultural heritage comprising the various diverse ethnic, tribal and social groups and the different altitudinal regions that has formed the wonderful dance, music and handicrafts of the country.
We currently partner three eco ethical enterprises in Nepal supplying us with a great range of handmade nettle, soy, silk, hemp and cotton scarves, felt products, prayer flags,and hair accessories. We are pleased to be able to support these enterprises and their employees.
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Peru is the third largest country in South America, after Brazil and Argentina and comprises over 1 million square kilometres. With a population of almost 30 million Peru is the fourth most populous country in South America. Most people live along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, there the capital, Lima, is located. Peru is divided by the Andes Mountains into three sharply differentiated zones. The coastline to the west is mostly arid, the central mountainous area has lofty plateaus and keep valleys, and the eastern zone is the heavily forested slope leading to the Amazonian plains.
Peru has been home to some of the oldest civilisations in the world including the Inca Empire and currently is a multiethnic country formed by the combination of different groups over five centuries.
Peruvian culture is predominantly rooted in Amerindian and Spanish traditions with minor influences form African, Asian and European ethnic groups.
In 2010 Peru ranked 63rd of the world’s counties on the Human Development Index with a HDI of 0.723. This rank position was 15 places above the previous UN HDI ranking. It is now well above other Latin American countries such as Brazil (73), Venezuela (75), Ecuador (77) and Colombia (79). Despite this increase 43% of the population are still living in poverty.
Peru is hailed as one of Latin America’s economic success stories. Its economy’s rapid growth (the fastest in the region in 2002) reflects the profits of a small elite, but eclipses the misery of the majority. More than half of all Peruvians subsist on less than $1.25 a day.
Lima is Peru’s capital city and is home to at least 8 million people. Most of these 8 million have migrated to Lima in the last 30 years to escape the severe poverty of Peru’s highland regions. Yet in Lima’s poorer areas a stunning 90% do not have access to health services, 59% are not connected to the piped water and sewerage system and 23% do not have electric power. As many as 25% of the children are malnourished.
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With a population of approximately 21.5 million and a land area of 64, 740 sq km, Sri Lanka is the 53rd most populated nation in the world. Population density is greatest in western Sri Lanka, especially around the capital, Colombo. The population is made up of Sinhalese (74%) with other ethnic groups such as Sri Lankan Tamils (12.5%), Indian Tamils 5.5%, and Moors, Malays, Burghers and others (7.9). With this multi ethnic population it is natural the religion would be multi as well. Buddhism constitutes the major religion (70%). Hinduism (7%), Christianity (6%), and Zoroastrianism make up the balance.
Sri Lanka has a Human Development Index of 0.659 and ranks 91 on the world’s list of countries. The country’s hdi has been steadily improving in the last 10 years.
Traditional crafts are not produced as much as in the past. Economic growth and the competition with developed countries has resulted in westernisation and a weakening of cultural identity. The thriving tourist industry is having some impact on maintaining traditional handicraft production. Artisans have a history of using locally available raw materials such as wood, reed, bamboo, coconut fibre, brass, and handloomed fabric for production of handicrafts. Sri Lankan artisans are renowned for their carving, batiks, lace and pottery.
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Thailand has a population of over 66 million covering a land area of 514,000 sq km. It is bordered by Burma in the north, Laos in the north and east, Cambodia to the east, the Gulf of Thailand to the south, Malaysia to the south, the Andaman Sea to the west and Burma to the west.
The Human Development Index ranks Thailand as 87 out of 182 countries. The infant mortality rate is 17.48 deaths per 1000 live births.
The dominant religion is Theravada Buddhism. The Thai population is made up of 75% Thai, 14% Chinese origin, 3% Malay origin with the remainder made up of Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes, most of which have migrated into the region during the past 100 years from the Asian interior and settled into Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand. They have largely preserved their traditional culture and produce diverse and colourful traditional handicrafts. The Karen, Lahu, Yao, Hmong, Lisu, Akha and Lahu form the seven broad hill tribe groupings. There are then further divisions within these tribe groupings. Each hill tribe has its own customs, language and culture. The hill tribes are most distinctly recognised for their colourful dress. There are some smaller tribes living in northern Thailand including the Palong, Khamu, Thins, and Mlabri.
Thailand’s handicrafts and art have a uniquely long-standing tradition. The Thai craft industry is the only one amongst its neighbours that has not been affected by occupation by a foreign power or wars of conquest. This relatively peaceful development has allowed the designs and craftsmanship of Thai artisans to flourish. There are a range of hill tribes to give additional colour and vibrancy of the textiles of Thailand. These indigenous handicrafts are finding international markets and favour with people around the world.
Thailand’s handicrafts are delicate and intricate, and products include textiles, silverware, laquer ware, woodcarving and pottery.
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Vietnam covers the entire eastern seacoast of the Indo-Chinese Peninsula. Ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) make up 86% of the total population of over 89 million and dominate the cultural and political landscape of Vietnam. Vietnam’s HDI ranks it as 116 out of 182 countries. The infant mortality rate is 23.61 deaths per 1000 live births.
There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam the largest is the Han Chinese (approx 2.3 million) who have been important in the Vietnamese economy in areas such as rice trading, milling, banking and real estate in the south and mining, shopkeeping and stevedoring in the north.
The ethnic Vietnamese occupy the lowlands whereas the second-largest ethnic minority group, the Montagnards, live in the central highland and can be subdivided into two main ethnolinguistic groups.
The Khmer Krom (Cambodians) is the third-largest minority, numbering approximately 600,000. Not surprisingly they live near the Cambodian border and at the mouth of the Mekong River.
In order the main religions of Vietnam are Buddhist, Roman Catholic Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai.
When we think of Vietnam’s handicrafts, lacquer ware comes immediately to mind. Vietnam’s lacquer ware artisans are known through the world for their high quality products including vases, boxes, jewellery, and interior decorating items.
With 54 ethnic groups, Vietnam is also home to a rich handicraft history with a large variety of products outside of lacquer ware, including woven tapestries and brocade handbags from the ethnic women living in the Northwest regions, embroidered articles and silk products from regions of Van Phuc, Nam Ha, Thai Binh and Hue, wool tapestries from Hanoi and Haiphong, jute tapestries from Hung Yen and Hanoi, copperware from Ngu Ex, Dai Bai and Dong Son and jewellery from Hanoi, Thai Binh and Hung Yen. Vietnam’s handicrafts have been produced by artisans for so long and are so varied that the names of many villages, hamlets and city streets have become synonymous with particular handicrafts.
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