Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Story Cloth Folk Art

Hmong Story Cloth

Storytelling is a way of life for most people. Our adventures become lessons that can help others. Storytelling takes many forms: oral, written, visual, and art. For the Hmong people, an Asian ethnic group that suffered severe reprisals as a result of alliances during the Vietnam War, storytelling is a told through story cloths. These folkloric renditions of fabric tell stories about the journey from their homeland farming villages to refugee camps in countries like ours.

The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles is hosting an exhibit of these colorful and vibrant stories. “Hmong Story Cloths: Stitching a History”, which runs through January 15, 2017, reveals the ways women decided to record their daily lives. The cloth journals include mundane acts of collecting water and harvesting as well as the more dramatic events, including marriages, annual customs and more.

Originally the Hmong people lived in the Yellow River region of China. Political repression by the Chinese government pushed them into Northern Vietnam between 1790 and 1860. Eventually, they migrated to the mountainous areas of Laos, Burma, and Thailand where they lived and farmed successfully for about one hundred years.

Their story cloths, also known as "flower cloth" represent folk art traditions like those found in other ethnic minorities in China. Embroidered bold geometric designs in different patterns reflected geographical regions. For example, batik is more common among the Green Hmong. However, the mass exodus brought groups together and over time, some patterns have found their way from one group to another. And, some pieces now also incorporate American color and pattern preferences.

The colorful strips were originally applied to clothing but can now be found on pillows, blankets, and even as stand alone folk art pieces.

To learn more about folk art, click here. For details about the show, click here.

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