For the Hmong, a Southeast Asia ethnic group, needle crafting is more than just a hobby, it is how they have told the story of their culture and made ties to their homeland.
Hmong story cloths will be part of the discussion on “Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity” at the 7th biennial Race, Ethnicity and Place Conference (REP VII). The AddRan College of Liberal Arts is a co-sponsor of the conference, which is set to be held in Fort Worth on Oct. 22-24.
The Hmong people were among some of the Vietnamese who fled their homeland during and after the Vietnam War. Miguel Leatham, a professor of anthropology at TCU, has studied the Hmong use of story cloths and is part of the panel talking about perspectives on race.
“I am talking about the role or like an intensification of belonging to and longing for Laos as an ancestral homeland,” Leatham said. “I manage to fit that general idea of ethnicity and place by seeing the connection in this idea of a reclaimed homeland in Laos and an art form.”
Leatham said Hmong women would embroider stories into the cloth, which help unite the culture but that the cloths were also sold to the public.
“The story cloth has been used since the ’70s to communicate messages by preserving some kind of connection to the Hmong homeland,” Leatham said.
April Brown, assistant director of inclusiveness and intercultural services, who will also be presenting during the session, organized the panel. She will discuss how quilters used their art to tell stories.
Brown said she selected Leatham to be part of the panel because “his research is so detailed that I almost felt like I met the people who were doing the quilting because he talks about the history of the quilting and the culture of the people. Why they use what they use when they quilt and how it’s meaningful to them and where it has gone even today.”
The conference will be held at the Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel. Tickets are $100 for students and $165 for faculty and professionals.