The Cutting Edge
Whenever we have big gatherings such as a ua neeg or hu plig, it always centers around food. The woman of the house comes up with a plan of what to make and the man of the house gathers up men to help him with preparing the meat for the event. Something that is always ritualistic is a truck pulling up to the house and the freshly slaughtered meat waiting to be expertly divided for use. The men gather around huge tables lined with plastic and large wood cutting boards. Each man grabs a knife of choice from a pile and one that is always there among the pile is the Hmong knife. I’ve seen in it our kitchen drawers my whole life. It is easily identified with its curved blade and blockish handle made from wood. With its slender shape, it can easily separate the skin from the meat of any animal and cut meat into precise sizes. I never think too much about the Hmong knife and about how it’s made. As I’vegotten older, I’ve learned that families will pay a Hmong blacksmith to make them knives. My parents sure did and they were always willing to pay more for these knives than American ones.
The authenticity and history of these knives make them worth it. The artful skill of making the Hmong knife is a craft that is slowly disappearing. The knife is usually made in a handmade forge and shaped with hammers and tongs. It is then sharpened to perfection on a stone block.
With such artistry, it is a shame that this craft is only known by few. There isn’t much literature on the Hmong knife. I still have no idea where it originated or who the original blacksmiths were in Laos. All I do know is that it was carried from war-torn villages, crossed rivers and oceans, and made it into my American home. This knife is designed for use in everyday life but was also used as a means of protection in the jungles.
To pay tribute to one of the tools that have remained in the life of the Hmong, we have created the Hmong knife pin. This pin is made to represent our culture, our heritage, and the strength behind our people. The knife along with our history will remain in our lives regardless of how many years pass.
Sites used for reference: http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/things-that-matter-hmong-bird-knife/article_70aa40c4-e539-5b4e-a0aa-27f8001aa323.htmlhttp://www.guianas-geographic.com/article-en/portrait-en/ya-sai-po-the-knifemaker-and-blacksmith-from-cacao/http://www.oldjimbo.com/Outdoors-Magazine/Thai-E-nep-and-Hmong-knives.pdf