The Lao Diaspora of Laotians living outside of the country of Laos, spans all over from France to Australia, Argentina and the United States, is a result of war - three to be exact, all happening simultaneously. The Lao Civil War, the neighboring Vietnam War and perhaps the most devastating, the U.S. Secret War in Laos - a military campaign that averaged a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, for 24 hours for 9 years. What makes Lao in America so unique then, is their experience living in the very country that nearly destroyed their own homeland.
The trauma of war isn't easy to talk about but in hiding it, that history becomes forgotten, misunderstood. For future generations, this turns into questions about their identities, not knowing what to ask and whom to seek those answers from.
We believe the arts is that link to initiating dialogue. Artists have frequently been referred to as voices for the people, and their work often utilized as tools for social change.
Highlighting artists who are creating work gives us a chance to shine a spotlight the Lao American experience. Conducting one-on-one interviews and sharing online submissions through the mediums of words, pictures and videos, we get personal accounts of an overlooked history. Whether traditional khaen musician or contemporary neo illustrationist, whether refugee survivor, descendant of the royal Lao family or adopted son of a former soldier, we believe all of our stories are important to the narrative of Lao America.
Today we integrate storytelling with art, seeking to engage community members to share our own personal stories, allowing us to do it in the way we want it to be done, seen and heard. This adds our voices to the larger collective narrative that makes us uniquely Lao American. It acknowledges the work of Lao American artists already sharing their own stories while giving voice to those who cannot do so for themselves, in the hopes of healing the scars of war and beginning the process of regular intercultural, intergenerational exchanges.
Take your shoes off and join us.
It started with one Lao artist meeting another Lao artist. Then another, and another, until we realized we were all telling similar stories though our work - work that had been recognized in the arts world, and that although reflected our culture and community, did not actively seek to engage the very people who inspired it. Until now.
Meet Manila and Kris, the Brooklyn-based duo behind #IEatLaoFood. For our very first House Guest Series we took a trip to Manila's childhood home in Syracuse, New York, where Kris' first taste of his mom's steamed fish became her favorite Lao dish and where his father has turned the house into a mini-museum of their family history.
Each week we'll be featuring a story from our online submissions page. We're looking for anything and everything - all stories are welcomed. Just send a picture with as few or many words to describe who, when, where and what's happening. If you're not sure, feel free to get in touch with us and we'll help you out.