||The Tsim Kho team live in Xaichaleun
village, in Nampuk area, in Houei Sai district (Bokeo province). Like
the other teams, their members are all farmers, some practising upland,
some lowland rice farming. They also raise pigs and chickens and some
plant corn and grow vegetables in small gardens. They belong to the
White Hmong subgroup.
Since starting making theatre in March 2004, the
team has created plays on to encourage adult women to participate
in non formal education programmes, for the promotion of soyabean
as a cash crop and 3 plays on the dangers of drug abuse (ATS).
In Hmong society women have traditionally looked after the children
and the home, as well as doing field work, while men go hunting
and are responsible for house building. The man is the head of the
family and makes most of the decisions. Many Hmong women do not
go to school and after marriage, women are normally not allowed
to speak out or take part in activities in public. Modern lao society
and law which makes education at least until the age of 15 compulsory
is challenging these rules. The theatre team members are proud of
their traditional culture but want to make the most of the advantages
which development can bring. So they raise the question with village
audiences: what should the Hmong woman's role be in a modern lao
Both the female and male team members love singing and have a large
collection of over 100 songs, including traditional and modern Hmong,
Laolum and Thai songs. Often Hmong villagers join in the performance
with the songs they know and the result is a big concert after the
play lasting until the small hours of the morning. For the Hmong,
music and song is essential to the theatrical event.
Two members of the team are talented artists and they are now learning
to produce visual aids for use in their presentations.
||The Hmong came from Southern China and
settled in Laos around 200 years ago. The Hmong have legends which
suggest their ancestors once lived in an icy land far to the north,
which indicates they may have originally moved to China (around 2000
years ago) from Mongolia, Siberia or Tibet. Around 315,000 live in
Laos in the present day.
There are three types of Hmong in Laos: the Green, the White and the
Black Hmong and each have their own distinctive dress. The clothes
of the women have many colours and richly embroidered.
The Hmong are animists and worship among others the sky spirit, who
they believe created both the world and their own ancient way of life.
There are many important everyday rituals related to placating the
spirits that live in the house and other parts of the village.
The Hmong live in on ground level houses made of rattan and wood,
with thatched grass rooves. They are well known as talented silversmiths,
which is reflected in the heavy earrings, necklaces and bracelets
which the women wear on special occasions.
The family is the most important unit in Hmong culture. People view
themselves geographically as clan members and will often have stronger
business ties to other Hmong villages in different provinces rather
than to neighbouring villages of other ethnic minorities. The Hmong,
even more than the other tribes, practice a strict male-female division
of labor. One custom that especially illustrates this is that of giving
a newborn boy a gift of metal from which he will one day forge a weapon.
The Hmong have a written form of their own language, using roman letters.
The men as the heads of the household and the ones responsible for
business can speak, read and write Laolum. The women are often illiterate
and some still cannot understand spoken Laolum.
The Hmong New Year, celebrated in December after the rice harvest
is the most important event in their calendar. Then there is a big
party in every Hmong village and relatives often come from far off
places to visit. This is a romantic time especially for young people
who are looking to marry and hope to meet potential partners from
other villagers. They dress in their best clothes and line up in couples
and play a ball game called Njon Ma Kawn (throw a cloth ball) and
flirt with one another through song all day. By the evening they have
perhaps found the boy or girl they want to marry.