Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Threads of Hemp and Hmong Pa Ndau Design

Years ago in the hills of Laos, there was a Hmong village with a craftswoman who made shirts. She made a shirt for me, and it's decorated with Hmong cross stitching called pa ndau. The shirt is made from woven hemp, dyed dark blue. For proper sizing, I left one of my shirts; months later I received this beautiful work of art.

I have been reading about the Hmong lately. I recently read that the pa ndau design usually represents nature, which is so very important in the Hmong culture. A design might be anything in nature: an elephant footprint, a snail or maybe a river.

While not an expert, I'm making an effort to interpret the pa ndau design below. At the bottom of my shirt is a band. It's designed with trees (the Laotian jungle) at the top and water (perhaps the Mekong) in the middle. Sadly, at the bottom are exploding bombs, which made up a large part of the Hmong's life in Laos in the early 1970's. The shirt pocket design has no trees, just the water . . . and the bombs.

Shirt Bottom Design
Hmong Cross Stitching - Shirt Border

Shirt Pocket Design
Hmong Cross Stitching - Shirt Pocket


Vicki said...

Beautiful work. Each line of the border is pretty. It is sad one line represents bombs as a common part of their lives. It is strange that even the bombs look pretty. Just another day - enjoy the trees, enjoy the water, expect the bombs. Very sad.

ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of Hmong news summaries...