2000/101/3 Skirt section, unfinished, indigo-dyed batik/ applique/ hemp/ cotton, made by Mrs Nang May Chang, Blue Hmong people, Bahn Phan Sawan village, Hua Phan province, Northern Laos, 1980-2000
Approximately seven million Miao/Hmong people live in southwest China, in Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces. They are divided into several main sub-groups, eg. the Kotchiong (Red Miao), the Hmu (Black Miao) and the Hmong (White Miao, Green Miao or Flowery Miao), and each sub-group consists of many smaller groups. From the 1500s to the 1800s, many of the Hmong sub-groups migrated across the mountains to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
The principal materials used in Miao/Hmong traditional costume-making are hemp, cotton, silk and natural dyestuffs, including indigo. Sophisticated weaving, dyeing, batik, pleating, embroidery, appliqui, interlacing, looping and quilting techniques are used to produce the costumes and have evolved to levels of exceptional artistry. Traditionally, these skills are transmitted from mother to daughter.
The patterns, colours, designs and motifs of the costumes reflect the cultural values and ideals of the people, and embody a range of historical and symbolic references. These costumes are characterised by originality and by the exceptional skill of the makers in their use of colour, materials and techniques. Each sub-group has developed its own costume-making techniques depending on their particular way of life and the local environment. Different sub-groups can be distinguished one from another through the composition of decorative patterns and the accompanying accessories and hair styles.
This length of hemp cloth for a woman's skirt was woven and batik patterned with indigo by Mrs Nang My Chang, a woman of the Blue Hmong people who live in northern Laos; it reflects the long migratory history and superb costume-making traditions of the Miao/Hmong people. In particular, this skirt section exemplifies the traditional techniques of batik patterning and indigo dyeing, and is indicative of the variety of traditional pattern motifs and symbols used by the Miao/Hmong costume makers.
Houaphan Province, Laos