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Cloth as Community: Hmong Textiles in America


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wildwood Park for the Arts
20919 Denny Rd
Little Rock AR 72223

The story of Hmong textile production in the diaspora reflects the radical upheaval in the external environment that Hmong refugees experienced. In traditional Hmong life in Asia, women produced complex clothing that established clan identity through abstract geometric designs in the textiles, created by embroidery, appliqué, reverse appliqué, and indigo batik (by the Green Hmong). The designs reflected a deep animist philosophy and were inspired by nature. They continue to influence the aesthetic choices of contemporary makers, even as those choices were mediated by refugee experience and economic concerns. Historically, textiles in village life were not sold but they held important spiritual protections, such as the colorful baby carriers and hats designed to disguise the children from evil forest spirits who might try to steal their soul. In refugee camps and later the diaspora, the sale of textiles generated important income for families, as it created conditions for innovation, such as the embroidered story cloth.

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