Hmong picking morels

The Morel Hunters

2021 calendar project: June

I’ve been working on this illustration for six weeks, and it’s a wonderful coincidence that it addresses themes of diversity during this incredibly sensitive time in our world. I wanted to highlight a small aspect of the cultural diversity which exists where I live. I hope this work contributes to amplifying those voices that need to be heard.

This is a portrait of expert morel hunters in the Hmong community in western Montana. The Hmong initially emigrated here from Thai refugee camps in 1976 to escape communist Laos forces. Historically, the Hmong have no written language. The colorful embroidery shown below serves as their form of written communication. Called “paj ntaub” (flower cloth), women sewed symbols into textiles to hide their stories from their oppressors. Many of the “codes” they created are still indecipherable! I color-copied patterns from Hmong flower cloth to use in the clothing depicted in the illustration.

Hmong fabric shown next to Nicole's illustration

If any of my information is inaccurate, please feel free to contact me. I did verify some aspects of my research in an interview with a Hmong friend, but was unable to interview our local Hmong community.

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