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Object Record

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Artist Unknown
Nationality or Tribal Affiliation Hmong
Title Fleeing Laos
Type of Object Needlework
Date 1977-1985
Medium Cotton/Thread
Dimensions H-82.7 W-88.2 cm
Collection Missoula Art Museum Collection
How acquired Gift of Susan Lindbergh Miller in honor of Montana's Hmong Community
Object ID 2011.10.10
Statement about this object This story cloth tells the story of Hmong people fleeing Laos with few belongings, experiencing warfare and combat with armed Vietnamese soldiers, hiding in caves and the jungle, crossing the Mekong River, and entering refugee camps.

Though the cloth was purchased in Missoula in the mid-1980s, the square format, neutral blue and grey fabrics, and large scale of this cloth indicate it was made in a Thai refugee camp with the intent to sell. Story cloths were unique products of the camps. Missionaries provided blue, gray, and tan fabrics were not part of the traditional Hmong color palette. Women began sewing larger cloths in the camps, since their agrarian lifestyle was displaced and they were no longer confined to sew after farm chores were complete. Men, who received formal education, contributed to the design and writing. These cloths were exported to relatives overseas and sold to generate income for those still in the camps.

Once the camps closed, the primary support system for making and selling story cloths dissolved. Furthermore, Hmong living in Laos today are expressly forbidden from documenting history via story cloths, and the work can continue only in secret.
Classification Textiles
Subjects Refugees
Search Terms Laos
Vietnam War