A few Saigon families continue to make a clean sweep
In a District 6 alley in Saigon, a few households are keeping the craft of broom-making alive.
In a small alley off Pham Van Chi Street, the broom making business has lasted for more than 50 years. It was brought here by migrants from the central province of Quang Ngai.
"In the past, every single household was making brooms, but now there are less than ten, and they are all old," said Le Hoai Hong, a 63-year-old broom maker.
The main material to make this broom is the Asian Broom grass, which is collected from the mountainous areas of Central Highlands provice of Gia Lai and central province of Quang Ngai. The grass has to be harvested when it is still young, and dried in the sun until it acquires a bright color with smooth and high-tensile texture.
Broom makers need a large space to work. At least four people in each household work together to make them.
A lot of the unusable part of the grass has to be removed before the broom making can begin.
"You must be very careful when removing the parts of the grass because they can cut your hand easily. And you must be able to tolerate the pollen from the grass," said Cuc, who has been making brooms for 15 years.
Another broom maker, Tran Minh Cuong, who has been doing it for 20 years, said: "When you tie the whole thing together, that’s the most important part. If people are not skilled, the broom can fall apart easily. Therefore, this part needs an experienced person."
A skilled maker can tie a broom per minute. Each broom needs from 10 to 12 small bundles of grass.
The broom is finished off with a metal wire and colorful plastic tapes.
To test the brooms, Hong taps them with a hammer. He gets paid VND100,000-150,000 ($4.3-6.4), depends on the how many brooms he made for a day.
The selling prices of a broom ranges from VND25,000-100,000 ($1-4.3), depend on its size.
"This craft is dying, because we only earn a few thousand dongs in profit. We are still doing it merely for the sake of keeping the vocation alive," said Duc Anh, a 48-year-old broom maker.