Event: Asian Heritage Festival 2010
Photoshoot Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Date: 14th May 2010
INFO ABOUT TAI DUM PEOPLE [FROM WIKIPEDIA]
The Tai Dam or Tai Dum are an ethnic group of Laos, Vietnam, China, and Thailand.
Tai Dam speakers in China are classified as part of the Dai nationality along with almost all the other Tai peoples. But in Vietnam they are given their own nationality (with the White Tai) where they are classified (confusingly for English speakers) as the Thái nationality (meaning Tai people).
The Tai Dam originate from the vicinity of Dien Bien Phu, in Vietnam, the original area of occupation of the Tai people in the early history of the Tai settlement of Southeast Asia according to the legend of Khun Borom, the legendary progenitor of the Tai-speaking peoples. They called this area Muang Then, the land of God, a name that still applies to the valley around Dien Bien Phu.
In the 1950s during the Vietnam-French War, many of the Tai Dam moved from Vietnam to Laos. In Laos, they worked as farmers, soldiers, and service workers. The Tai Dam language became infused with Lao. In the 1970s, Laos was undergoing a civil war and many of the Tai Dam became refugees and escaped into Thailand. Nearly 90 percent of Tai Dam refugees immigrated to the U.S. state of Iowa. The other 10 percent went to other places like Australia and France. After thousands of years of political oppression, the Tai Dam vowed they would stay together as a group. The Tai Dam are known as “the people without a country.” Iowa Governor Robert Ray and U.S. Cambodian Ambassador Dr. Kennith Quinn decided the state of Iowa would open its doors to the Tai Dam. Organizations and church groups sponsored families. A task force was developed to provide jobs for the refugees.
The ethnic group’s name originates from the traditional black skirts and headdresses worn by Tai Dam women. The black silk is embroidered with flowers and beautiful patterns. The belt is typically bright green. Tai Dam women still wear the traditional clothing, especially at ceremonies.
The Tai Dam do not have a defined religion, but practice ancestor worship as carried on by their Chinese heritage. Like the Chinese, they wear white at funerals as a symbol of grief. After the funeral but before the cremation, coins are thrown into the crowd. The dead are cremated with gold and silver jewelry. This practice originates from the belief the person’s dead spirit may need to produce payment into the spirit realm.
When the family finds a burial place, they sift through the ashes with water and pick out the melted jewelry for keepsakes before burying the ashes. Often food that includes a pig and fruit are set before the headstone as respect for the dead.
Pregnant women are not allowed at funerals for fear of spirits surrounding the situation, which Tai Dam believe can infiltrate the woman’s womb and be born through the fetus.
Family members are expected to cry and women are asked to scream loudly. To symbolize their grief, they cannot take a full shower or bath until after the funeral. They also cannot attend or throw parties, such as weddings and graduations, for up to one year. [Wikipedia/Creative Commons]
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