A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Family Tradition of Laotian-Hmong Weaving

Nhu Fang Yang (1911-?) and Ia Moua Yang, Detroit
1989 Festival of Michigan Folklife, East Lansing

Nhu Fang Yang learned the art of weaving on a back-strap loom from her mother, a master weaver in their small northern Laotian village. By the time Nhu married at age 16, she had mastered the skills necessary to make the intricate batik and appliqué skirts worn by all Blue Hmong women. The family moved to the U.S. in 1984. In recognition of Nhu Fang Yang’s exceptional artistry, she was awarded a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988. These Laotian-Hmong textiles are associated with rites of passage and New Year’s celebrations. In Michigan, many Hmong mothers still carefully create the decorative clothing needed by their children during the age of courtship and for marriage ceremonies, and daughters and daughters-in-law fashion the special squares customarily required for the burial of their elders. This video excerpt, shot at the MSU Museum’s 1989 Festival of Michigan Folklife by Gary McCuaig, shows the fruits of a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship between Nhu and her daughter-in-law, Ia Moua Yang. As a White Hmong, Ia Moua Yang learned embroidery and appliqué skills but did not learn to weave or batik. In 1988, the two women received a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship award, a program that encourages cultural preservation, pride, and respect through small grants made to master artists to teach their skills, techniques, and knowledge to others in their communities. The 1989 festival, with its theme of family traditions, provided a perfect vehicle for demonstrating the skills transmitted during the apprenticeship. For more information about MTAAP, visit http://museum.msu.edu/s-program/mtap/mtaap/mtaap.html.