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Pathe screens are one of the best known touristic memorabilia in Myanmar and can be seen in the hand baggage of expatriates who leave the state. However, the gliders have usually been substituted by less expensive, contemporary types and are seldom used outside festive events. "For a long while, almost all homes in my neighborhood were dependent on making parasols for a living, but the number of home industry businesses started to decline in 1993," says Ko Aung Win, proprietor of Myat Kyaung Taw, a small company that makes parasols on Tawyakyaung Road in the city.
Now only three or four small companies produce the gliders in his area. If we can get through this, we' ll see a booming market and craftspeople will be producing parasols again," he says. This decrease is due to the imports of inexpensive gliders.
Conventional parasols are now used for Buddhist noviciation and marriage ceremony or as home and outdoor decor. Waxy parasols made of wool are favoured by non-nationals and friars for their rustical, traditionally look, while more often used for donations or ceremonial purposes. They are not popular with non-nationals because of the shine of the satin and the shiny, sometimes flashy inks.
Mr. Ko Aung Win is optimistic that the traditions will flourish further. "Our traditions are not going extinct, because the ability to make an umbrella is a speciality of the area," he says. For 2011 he is expecting increasing turnover, especially to Europe, where his business will ship 1200 parasols this year despite increasing foreign competitors.
"At one time, there was a decline in product qualitiy when the market for parasols increased. A number of businesses employ unexperienced people to meet the demands, which in turn affects quality," says Ko Aung Win. May Thin Thin Hlaing, a roofer in Pathein, argued that crossovers between lands are an accepted part of the craft.
Remaining a cornerstone of the umbrella industry. However, Ma Nilar Win, who has a small store of handicrafts on the stairs to Shwedagon Pagoda, points out that tradition is inexorable. "My mom said that once more Pat Rhein gliders are magnificent and classical than those now being made," she says, pointing to representations of Inle, Bagan and Mandalay that have been drawn on the gliders.