General Introduction to Hmong Art
Introduction générale à l'art hmong

Hmong traditional art is mainly made of embroidery or paj ntaub with sophisticated geometrical designs, usually in combination of red and green, and yellow and blue colors. It is an abstract art. There are geometrical patterns that have been transmitted from generation to generation long time ago. According to scholars, the geometrical figures would be fields, rivers, houses, places, etc. that the Hmong people had left because of wars and starvations during their migration to the South and to the West. Here are two couples of patterns of embroidery used as motives for traditional bell.

After 1975, in the refugees camps in Thailand, started a new form of art: the figurative art where women and men, spent days to draw the various scenes of traditional lifestyle or of war in pencil before beginning to sew them to give birth to a the tapestry. These "naive scenes" with different characters working in the fields, crossing a river, etc. are called "Padau" or in Romanized Popular Alphabet or  writing system invented in the 1950's, "Paj Ntaub". The popularity of this art, introduced by the representants of the High Commissariat of Refugees in Thai camps, became the symbol of Hmong identity in the West even if they are old of about 30 years. I think the introduction of this work was to heal refugees' heart of loss: this time, instead of remembering their past life as geometric lines, they now kept their past as alive scenes that constitue their history. These tapestries are also called " story clothes". The development of this new art is in fact due to economic and financial needs more than a artistic promotion of Hmong culture and art, and but all traditional or new forms of art help to preserve memory, history and an oral tradition of the ethnic group

Living in the West, Hmong people borrowed the Western art, especially the visual art where they mostly use video and photography to record social events. The young generations start to paint and to draw, especially computer design.
However, Hmong traditional art remains a collective art with anonymous talents until now. Currently, there are some modern artists, but their creation remains unknown by the large public. See politician
Cy Thao's website (Feel free to send me your name if you are a Hmong artist)

In February 2005, I attended the summit of Hmong art organized by the organization "Hmong National Development" in Fresno, CA. I realized that Hmong modern visual art is still searching its identity and way to originality. The separation between modern and traditional is an ocean to cross. The generation born in the US is questioning their Hmong American identity, and seems not yet capable to express it in term of art, language of identity. As for their parents born in Southeast Asia, most of them do not practice their traditional art. They prefer buying their embroidery from Thailand, Laos or China. This is a new ethnic marketing for traditional crafts and art: but the market remains limited to the Hmong community or fashion designing company like Dior.
Hmong art may be characterized by the repetition of one figure into thousand pieces whether modern or traditional.
However, artistic objects are more for sell (economic needs) rather than for exhibition (intellectual needs), exhibition which is a concept difficult to understand by Hmong people.
There are different types of agents that circulate Hmong anymonous art through the world: old Hmong women traveling from market to market, fair to fair, country to country, to sell at the highest prices the various crafts. Hmong traditional embroideries are bought by the ethnic group, and the artifacts of padau are sold mostly to foreigners.

4  naive scenes of traditional lifestyle  from a tapestry, unknown date; the normal color is blue like in the second scene
2 pairs of geometircal patterns; the first pair red/green done in Laos, 1996; the second pair rectilinear/curved done in Laos, 1960's
Art Gallery
               Trilingual Website           Français            English           Hmoob                                          Index/Themes          Index/Year              

xploring: Current Experiences

Challenging: Women Issues

Reading: Research Articles

Learning: History

Guessing: Proverbs & Riddles

Studying: Literature & Poetry

Visiting: Photo Gallery

Admiring: Art Gallery

Listening to: Hmong Radios

Enjoying: Tales for Children

Taking: Courses of Cult & Language

Proposing: Story, Poetry & Artwork
Consultation Service              Rules              Website Spirit   
Copyrights 2002 to Kao-Ly Yang
All rights reserved 
General Introduction to Hmong Art
the 3 faces/ Les trois faces
the Woman-Leaves/ La femme-feuilles
Children Art / Les enfants artistes
Singing Nature by the Greatest Painter: Kaii Higashiyama
Masks and Expressions
Couples in Move and in Mood
Animal World
Types of Traditional Embroidery
Lifestyle in embroidery: Seasons of Happhiness and of Tears
Lady Kuan-Yin flying Everywhere / Niam Nkauj Kab Yeeb
Beautiful Collection of Baby Carriers / Collection de porte-bébés