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Hmong Story Cloth

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This decorative embroidery, created in Thailand and ordered through the online secondary market, is a tourist-friendly variation on Hmong textile art tradition. Traditionally, Hmong needlework emphasizes geometric forms, such as squares within squares. According to Hmong anthropologist Myc Thao, these were created to express a narrative palatable to Thai authorities while downplaying some of the decidedly negative aspects of the refugee experience in that country. The top two rows approximate the Laotian Hmong involvement in the Southeast Asian Wars in the 1960s and 70s, especially the Pathet Lao’s reprisals against Hmong people who sided with the United States in their “Secret War” in Laos that ran concurrently with the conflict in Vietnam and Cambodia. The third row down depicts Hmong people crossing the Mekong River from Laos into Thailand, an event that figures in the lore of almost every Hmong expatriate family. The fourth row shows the temporary resettlement into Thai refugee camps.

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