The Ha Nhi are one of the most decoratively dressed but elusive ethnic groups in Vietnam. The various sub groups that encompass this diverse culture reside in mud clad houses, sloping up the mountain sides of Lao Cai and Lai Chau. Each Ha Nhi village dons differently styled traditional attire, showcasing a multitude of textile skills across the region.
In 2017 Haute Culture visited the Ha Nhi of Y Ti village numerous times and built relationships with artisans there. Together, we developed a textile workshop for our annual Hill Tribe Textile Tour of Vietnam. In Y Ti, the residents wear a unique black cotton ensemble meticulously appliquéd with motifs made of coloured cording and a stunning head dress braided from black acrylic yarn and real human hair.
Who are the Ha Nhi
The Ha Nhi are a collective of different ethnic sub groups living in the north of Vietnam. They speak their own language, which is said to be similar to the Akha people living in Thailand and Laos. Before 1986, the Ha Nhi were known to farm poppies for the opium trade. The Vietnamese government have since illegalised the trade, so they now live off the rice they grow on their terraces and keep pigs and chickens for meat.
The Ha Nhi people live in single story rectangular houses made from mud, timber and rice stems. Villages vary in size but normally range between 30-50 households. Each house is likely home to three generations of family members. The houses are divided into three or four open plan rooms for the kitchen, living space, bedroom and storage; the toilet and water for bathing can be found in a separate out house.
The Traditional Dress
The traditional dress of the Ha Nhi women from Y Ti village is composed of a black synthetic fabric jacket decorated with appliquéd linear motifs that frame the garment’s edges. The intricately designed decorative borders and bands are predominately made from a cord which has been hand sewn from strips of blue, pink, and white polyester fabric. This is machine stitched onto garments in rows of repetitive geometric patterns. When the women are not in the rice fields, they spend their leisure time preparing this cord that decorates their traditional dress. Continue Reading