60 x 31 inches
152 x 79 centimeters
1998 Textile Purchase Award — Sidewalk Art Show
about the work
This coat is an example of stories in needlework, which is a significant part of Hmong Laotian culture. The sleeves and front of the jacket depict scenes of typical Hmong farm life, such as growing corn and rice and raising livestock. The back of the coat tells a very different story—the two armed men are Hmong police, protecting farmers from the Communist North Vietnamese soldiers. The wave-like inserts represent the Mekong River, over which many Hmong and other Laotian people escaped to safety in Thailand (Ainai Vang included.)
Unfortunately, the techniques of Hmong needlework are slowly fading from memory, as many of the younger generations have little desire to learn this beautiful but time-consuming ancient craft.
about the artist
Ainai Vang was born in Laos. In the mid-1980s, she and her family escaped Communist soldiers from North Vietnam by fleeing across the Mekong River into Thailand, where they lived in a refugee camp with thousands of other Hmong peoples. Ainai lived in this camp for three years before emigrating to Inman SC in 1987, where she worked at Startex Mill and Wilkes Alterations.