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The word Hmong means "Human being" or "Free People" in the Hmong language. Anthropologists trace their heritage as far back as Siberia and Central Asia. Although they lived in China for centuries, often as slaves, they fell victim to genocide and oppression. The Hmong have in time mostly settled in Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. In 1959 after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, Laotian civil war broke out. In addition to this displacement from their homeland, the Vietnam War caused further migration from their settled home. During the Vietnam War the Hmong fought with the United States against the Vietcong. However, after the war, when the United States withdrew from Vietnam and Laos, many of the Hmong escaped to Thailand by crossing the Mekong River. Although the Hmong have been mostly associated with the South East Asian countries, they have struggled to maintain their unique culture with a commitment to remain the "Free People" throughout their history.

Each Quilt Block is a Work of Art
Every square is handmade by a Hmong hilltribe woman living in the remote hills of northern Laos using the reverse applique quilting method. The designs are traditional symbols for love, longevity, and life. Delicate accent embroidery adorns each square.

Providing Supplementary Income
In the majority of cases, the artisans' incomes are based mainly on agriculture. Income from handicrafts provides supplementary income for the artisans and their families. Albeit supplementary, this income may be essential in the provision of life's basic necessities such as food, clothing, medical care, education, transportation, etc. In times of emergency or in the event of a poor harvest, supplementary income can be critically important.



The Hmong (Paj Ntaub ) Storycloth:
The Hmong did not have any previous written language until thirty-five years ago when Christian missionaries standardized and romanized the Hmong language. Previously, all of their communication was oral and/or pictorial. Many of the oral history traditions have been transcribed pictorially on a story cloth known as a pa’ndau. The pa’ndau, composed of applique, cross-stitches, batik and embroidery, incorporates Hmong personal family history, village life, the death and disturbances of war and emigration, and life in a new land.

In the upper half of this cloth there are scenes of harvesting corn, pounding rice, and feeding animals. The third tier of images shows shamanistic ceremonies and the bottom tier shows traditional courting customs. The mother of the bride is furious when she learns from a messenger that her daughter has been seduced by her would-be husband and threatens the messenger with a stick.

The Hmong migrated from southern China in the nineteenth century to the mountainous areas of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. During the Vietnam War the Hmong worked with the American CIA in the "secret war in Laos," and therefore were forced to flee their homeland after the victory of the communists. After spending time in refugee camps in Thailand, many Hmong settled in various countries including Australia.

The Hmong have brought with them a rich visual arts heritage. Paj ntaub or "flower cloth" continues to be produced by Hmong artists in this country. The designs and patterns used are symbolic in Hmong culture and often are derived from forms in nature. Paj ntaub is used to decorate traditional Hmong clothing and are valued as works of textile art.


 
 
 
 
   

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