The state of Iowa has acquired a unique piece of artwork that details the plight of the Hmong people in Laos. The five-by-seven foot tapestry is what’s called a “paj ntaug” which translates to “story cloth” or more literally “flower cloth.”Riki Saltzman is director of the Iowa Folklife Institute. The story cloth was made by Shoua Her of Oskaloosa, who came to Iowa in 1976 along with 20 other Hmong families. Saltzman says the hand-embroidered cloth details the simple life of the Hmong people and their persecution.It shows people being taken from farm villages by soldiers and being shot, thrown in refugee camps and fleeing over a river. Saltzman says the lower portion of the colorful, detailed quilt shows the refugees boarding jets that will take them to a new life in America. The Hmong people emigrated from China to Laos centuries ago and fought on the U-S side during the Vietnam War. The story cloth will go on display this weekend in Des Moines as part of an Iowa folklife conference.
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