The Miao ethnic minority exists primarily in the mountainous region of Southwest China where these art forms are of huge cultural significance. Women artisan communities in China's Guizhou province, a region known for its rich ethnic minority handicraft traditions, are some of the most talented indigo batik practitioners in the world.
Many of the women have been making batik since they were teenagers. Miao women in the village have been making their own batik for their weddings and other ritual gatherings for generations.
The majority of young women from our partner villages have left for education and work opportunities in the city. While many of them learned batik and embroidery from their mothers at a young age, most of them do not have the time or technique to make their own traditional outfits.
Below are some of the talented women artisans we work with:
Ms. Yang holds up the jacket she made for her wedding as a young woman. The Miao believe that their ancestors in the spirit world will not recognize them if they wear non-traditional clothes during rituals.
Yang Chunyan is a Miao batik artisan who lives in the remote mountainous village with her husband and two children.
Like most all women in her home village, making batik handcrafts is a skill she learned from her mother and grandmother, and has passed on to her teenage daughter. She spent several years in batik handcraft companies in neighboring provinces before returning to her home village in 2010.
Although she didn’t finish elementary school and has spoken Miao most of her life, her experience outside of the village taught her to speak and write Mandarin. Her communication skills, combined with her exquisite craftsmanship, have positioned her as a leader among batik artisans in her community.
In 2014, she started a batik cooperative with three other women in her village. She wants to make a comfortable livelihood for herself, support her children in receiving a good education, and share batik culture with people across China and the world
Zhang Yiping, 24, and her cousin, 25, recently borrowed money from the bank to start their own batik workshop in the township center. They are among a very small handful of 20-somethings from this area that have decided to try to make a career out of making batik handcrafts.
Although it has been a challenge for her and her cousin to run the workshop, she says she is much happier than she was making socks at a factory in Guangdong a few years ago.
She is proud of her Miao heritage, and is hoping to open a batik learning center in the county seat, so more people can learn about this handcraft tradition.
In February 2017, Wang Naoguo, 45, returned from migrant work in the city to start a batik cooperative with two other women in her village. Each woman put in money to buy materials. Now, eight women work in the cooperative. However, because of their remote location and limited Mandarin skills, sales remain a major challenge for them.