Object 1: Exhibition: Indigo dyeing fabrics indigenous to Hmong tribe of Vietnam

May 27, 2021


Indigo fabric dyeing is a sacred process originally practiced by women of the H’mong tribe, one of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam. The fabrics in the photo were created by some of the oldest members of the tribe and are mostly used for decoration, or as textiles for the production of traditional H’mong clothing. These fabrics can be recognised by the characteristic patterns and symbols embroidered in their designs.

Historically, indigo dye comes from indigofera plants, indigenous to Vietnam. These plants are cultivated, fermented and ground into powder or paste by hand using traditional Vietnamese ingredients such as rice water. Over the years this process has been passed through generations of H’mong women strengthening and bringing together communities. However, since 1883 we have understood how to chemically synthesise indigo, enabling mass production. This has resulted in a lack of appreciation and awareness for the traditional indigo dyeing process and its cultural significance. Over time, as the elderly women who are most familiar with this traditional process stop creating indigo dye the dissemination of this tradition is limited.

Evolution of knowledge is a natural processes, however, I think it is necessary to remind ourselves of the origins of our current knowledge. I chose this object because it feeds into a wider discussion on the potential loss of meaning when knowledge is over disseminated. Ethical considerations are relevant here as our attention is brought to the way knowledge has developed and been disseminated. This object enriches the exhibition by encouraging us to consider the extent to which currently shared knowledge should pay respect to its origin. In my opinion, we should make a conscious effort to disseminate knowledge more accurately, so we do not discount the evolution process it has undergone. In this example, The H’mong tribe represents the history of indigo dyeing which has unfortunately been forgotten by many.

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