The diaspora of Laotians living outside of the country of Laos spans all over the world, from France to Australia, Argentina and the United States. This 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, giving Laos the title of the most bombed country in the world. What makes Lao Americans 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.
 Dancing For Mother (2007) mixed media on denim, by Chantala Kommanivanh

Dancing For Mother (2007) mixed media on denim, by Chantala Kommanivanh

Artists have frequently been referred to as voices for the people, and their work often utilized as tools for social change. Highlighting the work of artists gives us a chance to shine a spotlight on that experience, while adding their voices to the larger collective narrative that makes us uniquely Lao American. Whether traditional khaen musician or contemporary neo illustrationist painter, whether refugee survivor, descendant of the royal Lao family or adopted son of a former soldier, we believe that all stories are important to the story of Lao America.