A Luang Prabang-based women’s artisan group launches a breakthrough podcast

  • 06:45 AM, 1 Jun, 2021

(31 May 2021, Luang Prabang) Broadcast from a weaving studio on the banks of the Mekong River, Radio Ock Pop Tok is the first podcast produced and published entirely by a traditional women’s artisan group. Intended for curious travellers and creative minds, Radio Ock Pop Tok takes “Roads Less Travelled” to meet pioneers and change makers in folk arts and travel.

Radio Ock Pop Tok fills a gap missing in the podcast sphere: the voices and stories of artisans living and working within their communities. Each week, the Radio Ock Pop Tok team takes listeners on a virtual trip to fabled cities along the Silk Road or creative modern metropolis, spotlighting a grassroots initiative and  providing behind the scenes look at the personalities and landscapes that make travel meaningful and interesting.  

The First Podcast From Laos 

Radio Ock Pop Tok is a project of Ock Pop Tok (OPT), a pioneering social enterprise that produces award-winning handmade textiles and artisan products. Established in 2000 by Lao weaver Veomanee ‘Veo’ Douangdala and British photographer Joanna ‘Jo’ Smith, OPT operates on a platform of fair trade, creating opportunities for local weavers to advance their skills, sourcing the finest raw materials, and providing a sustainable source of income for women and their communities. 

In March 2020, the Lao government shut its borders to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. In UNESCO Luang Prabang, where most businesses rely heavily on tourism-related income, the lockdown strained the local economy. “Overnight, we lost over 90 percent of our income stream. But, more than that, we were missing conversations and interactions with the travellers, designers, journalists who visit and contribute to the life and energy of our studio,” says Ms Smith. 

“A podcast that crisscrosses the world, keeping the spirit of travel alive and connecting artisans and creatives, is unexpected, which is precisely what makes it appealing,” adds Ms Smith.  

Ms Smith co-hosts the podcast with Rachna Sachasinh, a journalist who has been collaborating with Ock Pop Tok on branding and storyt elling projects since 2014.  


Travel Virtually, Get Inspired, & Stay Connected

To date, the duo have interviewed a distinguished group of leaders and innovators in the travel and craft sphere, including Shoshana Stewart, CEO of Turquoise Mountain, a heritage conservation and craft organisation that operates in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Another episode featured Nilda Callañaupa Alavarez, a Quechua weaver and artisan advocate, who revived textile traditions in Quinchero, a small town on the road to Machu Picchu.  

In a remote corner of the Tibetan Plateau, Radio Ock Pop Tok met up with Kim and Dechen Yeshi, a mother-daughter team who established a pioneering textile social enterprise with local nomads. In Uzbekistan, listeners were introduced to Muhayo Alieva whose business Bibi Hanum collaborates with silk ikat and embroidery artisans in Fergana Valley, a famed crossroads on the overland Silk Road. A look at how traditional embroidery can support women in refugee communities took listeners inside Rashidieh camp, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.  

“Covid lockdowns around the world have left travellers and artisans groups stranded. Our conversations are a way to travel virtually, get inspired and connect meaningfully,” states Ms Sachasinh.

A platform for collaboration and cultural exchange

“In Lao, Ock Pop Tok means “east meets west”. When Veo and I started OPT, we wanted to operate on a platform of collaboration and cultural exchange. Radio Ock Pop Tok is an extension of this philosophy,” states Ms. Smith. 

Radio Ock Pop Tok is available free of charge and can be streamed and/or downloaded directly from Ock Pop Tok’s website, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Soundcloud and Google Podcast. To keep up to date on new episodes and news, listeners are encouraged to sign up to Ock Pop Tok’s newsletter:

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