It’s no secret that Vietnam is a thriving hub for inspiration hunters, especially in the mountainous areas where the tribal culture is very much alive. There’s no better place to showcase the rich and colorful culture of this fascinating country than ethnic minorities groups. It’s also where the soul of Vietnam’s crafting traditions being kept for ages despite of modern technology and development going on in the outside world. It’s where the ancient techniques are still being used as an honor and traditional costumes are being wore as a part of everyday life. If Vietnam is your next destination, it’s highly recommended that you spend some time to touch base with the local hill tribes. Apart from exploring villages in the rugged mountains, let’s go to at least one of the ethnic markets which is as much interesting as any fashion show. Additionally, there are plenty of silk villages and indigo farms to learn about the traditional techniques and cultural highlights of a minority group.
In this post, we’d like to take the first glimpse at the textile pictures of Vietnamese ethnic minorities with the batik technique of the Black Hmong. Hidden amongst the emerald hills of Northwest Vietnam, near the Chinese border is the residence of the Black Hmong minority. You can easily find them in such areas like Sapa, Bac Ha, Cao Son, Mu Cang Chai, Lai Chau. This tribe is believed to emigrate from China about 300 years ago and since then, they’ve been building a community to preserve their traditions and heritage.
Hemp plays a key role in both physical and spiritual life of the Black Hmong minority. Originated from it, the Black Hmong created a vibrant culture which is unique and unblended with any other. From the cultivation to harvest and utilize on their clothes, hemp is their life style. The clothes from hemp is not only durable but also highly aesthetic. It’s suitable for the harsh weather of the mountainous areas and the agriculture types of work. Above all, it thoroughly represents the cultural identity as long as the pride of the Hmong community.
The Black Hmong minority boasts a unique style of their own. It’s quite recognizable by indigo dyed and batiked patterns which symbolize the intimate connection between their people and the nature. Even though it’s a lengthy process to create the traditional clothing, the women of this hill tribe still practice everyday.
First hemp is harvested and then being left to dry out for 10 days under the sun, but only 4 nights under the dewfall to strengthen its elasticity and resilience. The women then use their hands to separate the fibers and soften them a little first. Later everything will be put into a millstone to further flatten to make it more flexible and silky.
The next step is where hand looms being used to weave those glossy strands into pieces of cloth, ready for the most artistic step- batik, also what they are most well-known for. At this point, all Hmong women and little girls become artists to transcend the vibrant nature into the skirts, dresses…
To create the patterns and decorations on the fabric, the Black Hmong apply the technique of using bees wax and dyeing. First, they melt the wax and then use a special pen with wooden handle and metal nib to directly draw on the fabric. Unlike most people believe the batik is the last step, the indigo dyeing is. After the wax has dried in the form of many beautiful patterns, the fabric then being dipped in natural indigo vessels for more than 10 times to reach a perfect dark blue tone. The parts covered by wax will not be cracked through by color at this stage. Hence, the patterns nicely remained original color. The wax later will be removed easily by washing under the hot water. Until now, the Black Hmong have developed about 20 different patterns from this technique which can be easily seen in their daily clothes. Those patterns make their styles to become both fashionable and exotic. Nowadays, these techniques are still being passed on to the younger generation everyday, from a mother to a daughter, like an endless circle.