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Patterns of Change: Transitions in Hmong Textile Language

Author(s): Geraldine Craig

Journal: Hmong Studies Journal
ISSN 1091-1774

Volume: 11;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2010;
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Keywords: Hmong | paj ntaub | embroidery | Laos | Thailand

In traditional Hmong life, women produced complex textiles as markers of clan identity and cultural values. Paj ntaub (flower cloth), created by embroidery, appliqué, reverse appliqué, and indigo batik (among the Blue or Green Hmong), were primary transmitters of Hmong culture from one generation to the next over centuries. Clothing, funeral and courtship cloths, baby carriers and hats were designed with traditionally geometric, abstract patterns Hmong could understand as a shared visual language within an oral culture.This photo essay introduces the author’s twenty-five year fascination with paj ntaub and documents a trip to Laos and northern Thailand in November/December 2009 to discover whether story cloths were being produced in Hmong villages in Laos or if story cloths remain a product of refugees only. The researcher also hoped tolearn whether traditional Hmong clothing is still produced and worn in the Laos, to observe how Hmong textiles are made and consumed for a tourist market, and to discover possible sources for the dramatic shift in paj ntaub visual language from symbolic abstraction to pictorial representation.

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