Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Hmong book finished...and a response...

My Hmong book is now finished....

...and I am delighted with it!

Here are the Front and Back pages...



...back inside...




...and inside middle...

...with part of the Miao (Hmong) creation story of "Butterfly Mother" stitched into a little inserted book.




I thoroughly enjoyed making this one, and I hope that my students will enjoy it too! :-)

Now, with regards to one of the comments received on the previous blog post.....


Yes, I have to admit that these blocks were made in India, and that (probably) they were produced without asking permission from any Hmong person. However, while I understand where the commentor is coming from, I, personally, do not have a problem with using these blocks in any projects that I make

I am not claiming the designs as my own but openly acknowledge that they belong to the Hmong people. I also include one of their stories in the book and acknowledge the source at the back of the booklet.

I make these items using designs, words etc from other cultures because a) I find them totally fascinating and beautiful and b) I want other people to learn about them and enjoy the designs etc too.

All of my workshops are designed to educate as well as inspire. Many people have never heard of the Hmong/Miao people nor the problems they are facing from a) the Han Chinese who are systematically invading their areas or b) their own desires to have all the modern trappings of Western society.

Large amounts of old textile and traditional craft-made items have been sold to Western traders so that people can buy Nike trainers or Reebok tracksuits. (One of my pages shown above has an actual piece of Hmong embroidery on it...bought from a trader who has almost unlimited supplies...although this is now beginning to slow down apparently.) Their designs appear all around SE Asia on many different items, some of which they themselves sell - even though the items have been machine made (maybe) somewhere else entirely.

What I'm saying is...the designs are out there...all over the place, including the internet. Therefore I feel that it is OK for me to use them....as long as I do not claim that they are mine.

I understand that the Maori and Aboriginal people feel aggrieved when others use the designs that they maintain are "sacred" to them in some way, but quite how they can stop the use when pictures are all over the internet and in books and magazines etc. is a bit of a difficult task. I'm also not really sure how much of the grievance is relating to financial issues rather than "cultural" or "spiritual/religious".

I live in a "Celtic" country. "Celtic" art is all over the world. I do not feel aggrieved when I see it anywhere (well, maybe when it's badly produced by Chinese machines!), but I would hope that the beauty in the designs will prompt someone to look into "Celtic" culture and learn about the peoples to whom it relates.

As a pre-historian there have been many occasions when I have been soooooo frustrated at the lack of information about ancient and now-lost cultures and societies.

Had someone taken an interest in them and passed-on designs and information, maybe we would know a bit more now.

I hope that my little bit of educational recreation will introduce more people to the Hmong and that that will help to keep their designs etc alive in a world where Western crap seems to be more desirable than indigenous art.

I would like to say "Thanks" for the comment that prompted this response. It is very valid and has given me the opportunity to give my thoughts on the subject.

x C

6 comments:

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Well said Chris ...especially like the inclusion of the little butterfly creation story!

Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers said...

Yes I agree. Not something I had thought about, and it's an interesting and very valid point. But when designs or shapes or motifs are out there in the public domain or in common knowledge it's difficult to imasgine that they would never be copied. I agree, too, that using art as a means of telling their story is a useful, even valuable activity.

Penny said...

Beautiful, beautiful art.
Its one thing to copy something and pass it off as your own original design - or worse profit from it by selling it as your own design. We live in a global society with access to all manner of design, ideas, etc. I love this piece of work and to me it was made in honor of that society - its symbols and stories. If not for your lovely art I would never have known anything about this society and their beliefs. Thank you.

Jules Woolford said...

I agree, this is a super project. I found the anthropological aspect very interesting, and it's raised awareness about the Hmong people - who I (hands up!)previously knew nothing about, and I suspect, many others didn't either! Beautiful work, undertaken with both great sense and sensitivity Chris.

Chris Gray said...

Thanks for these comments ladies!

It makes me very happy indeed that I can broaden knowledge and please with art.😊

X C

Charlton Stitcher said...

I agree with what you say. When in Thailand a couple of years ago, we bought a Hmong beautiful bedcover which we love and treasure. Its purchase and our visit to the excellent craft centre where we bought it made us aware of the plight of the Hmong and, perhaps our purchase did something to help. One can only hope so. However, it is vital if we use images from other cultures that we acknowledge where they came from which was certainly the case in the centre we visited.
We are going to Australia and New Zealand at the end of this month. Your post has made me aware that we need to be sensitive when visiting and viewing Aboriginal and Maori artefacts. Thank you.