Young Thai designer revives ancient culture through APEC logo design

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With the annual APEC gathering being kicked off in Bangkok this week, the tricolor logo for APEC 2022 can be seen all over the Thai capital, but few people know it was designed by a 21-year-old local college student.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in the architecture faculty of Chulalongkorn University, Chawanon Wongtrakuljong shared with Xinhua his process of creating this year's logo for the world's high-profile economic forum.

When studying at home due to the pandemic last year, the third-year college student learned about the design contest. Chawanon said it presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design an international logo for Thailand.

"The challenge of the design was to combine the APEC identity with Thai culture," Chawanon said. Instead of choosing common elements like elephants and temples, this time, the young designer decided to think outside of the box.

"If we talk about transportation, people think of tuk-tuks, and if we talk about food, people think of Tom Yum Kung." Chawanon realized the symbols are timeless due to their roots in history and culture.

"A key symbol that has been integral to the Thai economy and for the Thai people for a long time is represented by the 'chalom'," he said while holding a woven bamboo basket, a handcrafted container used for generations to transport, store and exchange items.

He explained how he converted the characteristics of the chalom to the final version of the logo, which took him around three months.

"When the chalom strips are woven together, it forms 21 spaces that represent the 21 APEC economies," Chawanon said, adding that the converged strips at the top corresponded to intertwining economic growth in the coming years.

"The official colors -- Convenience blue, Connection pink, and Sustainable green depict APEC's vision in 2022 to build a more open, connected, and balanced world for future generations," he said.

These rich conceptualizations and exquisite designs finally made Chawanon, who has been painting since primary school, stand out among nearly 600 competitors.

"Since the APEC logo was released, interest in chaloms has increased among young people, with some even coming to learn how to make them," said Urai Sageamsi, 65, a wicker-weaving expert at Phanat Nikhom Community, a place dedicated to preserving ancient bamboo weaving techniques.

After being absent from people's daily life for decades, chaloms and other bamboo-woven crafts seem to be gaining popularity and may have a chance for a comeback.

The 44-year-old Phanat Nikhom Community, with around 15 craftswomen, produces up to 100 different types of wickerworks, ranging from baskets to jewelry boxes. Most of the products are sold in local markets or fulfill out-of-town orders.

Chawanon is glad that his design is making this ancient folk art more accessible to a wider audience, not least he hopes the craft "will be reintegrated into modern life."

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