On 10 February 2014 Hmong Archives quietly completed 15 years of collecting and preserving 165,000 Hmong materials (Hmoob teej twg) from over 950 donors worldwide. Our exhibit is to thank our donors and volunteers for their contributions, and to honor the skills, imagination, and innovation of Hmong women’s thread and needles that have created paj ntaub over the centuries.
Hmong needles and batik pens were limited to beautifying clothing in the traditional designs of local areas and dialects in the isolated mountain villages of southwestern China and neighboring Southeast Asia. For centuries, the scores of distinctive Hmong costumes varied only slightly in designs and materials until the disruptive wars of the 1960s and 1970s that ended in relocation to valley settlements in the homeland, and fleeing to crowded refugee camps which brought about the modern Hmong diaspora on five continents—and great changes in paj ntaub.
Thus, the traditional production of hemp clothing, woven, dyed and sewn in the mountains, was mostly displaced by manufactured cloth in unlimited variety bought in the marketplace. In turn, Hmong have created paj ntaub to use traditional skills for international marketplace products. Hmong Archives has collected, on a very limited budget, some 4,900 objects, including hundreds of paj ntaub, mostly made after 1980 by Hmong from Laos. It has been fascinating to study the designs and colors in our collections, and it is with great pleasure that we thank Landmark Center for the opportunity to display a few of our paj ntaub in their North Gallery, between 24 February and 4 May.