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 the United States, with large concentrations in California (ca. 75,000), Minnesota (ca. 40,000), and Wisconsin (ca. 40,000).
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.
The cloths presented here come from two sources: Flower Cloth of the Hmong, Denver, CO: Denver Museum of Natural History, 1985, and Joan Randall, ed., Art of the Hmong-Americans, Davis, CA: C.N. Gorman Museum (UC Davis), 1985. The textiles shown from the first work are for the most part untitled and unattributed; the textiles in Randall are properly attributed.
Flower Cloth of the Hmong
- Bird's wings [39k JPEG image]
- Borders: mountains, spider web, mustard green flowers [30k JPEG image]
- Elephant's foot [33k JPEG image]
- Flower, with peacock eyes at corners [41k JPEG image]
- Old People's Design [35k JPEG image]
- Rooster combs [23k JPEG image]
- Snail with filler triangle and seeds [39k JPEG image]
- Star with seeds inside [35k JPEG image]
- Tiger's face [29k JPEG image]
- Red, Blue and Gold Concentric Cloth [38k JPEG image]
- Green Spirals [26k JPEG image]
- Old People's Design [28k JPEG image]
- Long Green and Red Strip [38k JPEG image]
- Folded Cloth With Scrollwork [270k JPEG image]
Art of the Hmong-Americans
Hmong Cross-Stitched Baby Blanket [353k JPEG image]
Cross-stitch rectangle (cotton polyester) by Ly Vang, 41.5"x55" (Merced).
Baby Carrier [366k JPEG image]
Blue Hmong baby carrier. Applique on batik cotton cloth with ribbon and Thai silk border by Chia Chou Xiong, 26.25"x17" (Merced).
Blue, Purple and White Reverse Applique [109k JPEG image]
Reverse appliqued square in blue, purple and white (cotton polyester) by Lia Vang, approx. 40"x40" (Fresno).
Blue, Red and White Applique and Embroidery [108k JPEG image]
Appliqued and embroidered (chain stitch) square in blue, white and red (cotton polyester) by Lee Vang, 19"x19.25" (Fresno).
Blue and White Reverse Applique [201k JPEG image]
Reverse appliqued square in blue and white (cotton polyester) by May Xiong, 40"x40" (Fresno).
Money Belt [153k JPEG image]
Money belt in reverse applique with embroidered detail, fringed with beads, silver Laotian coins, and silver bells. Chua Zoua Vang.
Polished Cotton Applique [326k JPEG image]
Applique square (polished cotton) by Mai Lee, 21"x21.5" (Fresno).
Repetitive Square [452k JPEG image]
Square done in several applique techniques: simple, reverse, and double (cotton polyester) by Mai Thao, 63"x63" (Merced).
Hmong Spirals In Sequence [214k JPEG image]
Reverse applique square (cotton polyester) by Blay Vang, 15"x15"