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Hemp Clothing

August 20, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Black H *** All images taken with Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens ***

The Black H'Mong hill tribe can be easily identified by their dark blue hemp cloth clothing. They manage the entire process from the production of the hemp and indigo plants, through to the separation of the fibres, the dyeing, the weaving, the sewing and embroidering. I'm not entirely sure how long the process takes to produce one item of clothing, but this is purely women's work. There is quite a clear delegation of work between the men and the women, with the men doing a lot of the hard physical labour such as plowing the fields with the buffalo and constructing houses, while the women do the planting, cooking, sewing, and buying and selling at the market. Actually, the markets can sound like an excited aviary with the cacophony high-pitched female voices gossiping and bartering en masse!

Hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant, but without the potency. It's a great plant for producing clothing, and could easily be an alternative for cotton and a viable industry for many countries, but governments get nervous about it's drug cousin and the risk of exploitation. Both plants have the same leaves, so the risk of hiding one amidst the other is too much for some I guess.

The clothing is very hard wearing, and the intricate embroidery patterns are very distinctive and have changed slightly over time as the younger generation introduce their own touch. In fact, the older items are very popular with foreign tourists and the back flap panel of a female shirt has a starting price of USD30. It's a good source of income for the H'Mong to sell their second-hand clothes!

I've put together a slideshow of the process as best as I could record it. I didn't come across any hemp crops, and only have picture of Red Dzao embroidering rather than Black H'Mong, so you'll have to use your imagination for what this would look like. I don't always set out to record a particular story, but rather record what I come across and put a story together retrospectively. In this case I have a couple of gaps that I hope you don't mind living with!

 


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