Art, Music & FIlm, Community, Hip Hop, Lao American, Lao Diaspora
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Chantala Kommanivanh commemorates Lao America with Sabai Sabai art show

Sabai: living easy, comfortable, simple.

This is the feel, theme and name of Chantala Kommanivanh’s art show, coming to Chicago’s eclectic Pilsen neighborhood this Friday, June 12th. “Sabai Sabai” features Chantala’s interpretive pieces of the Lao American refugee experience, commemorating 40 years since post-1975 war era. Chantala is no stranger to LLOTP. He joined forces with us for The Lao Diaspora Project and showcased his work at our “Refuge of the InvisibLao” exhibit earlier this year in Minneapolis. We briefly chatted about what this upcoming collection means to him and his craft.

On his contribution to Lao American art.

I made the work to document a piece of Lao history that many of us lived through, so the work is very personal. I didn’t make paintings of three-headed elephants, That Luang, women bathing in the river, or the march of monks in morning rituals. Sure, these are “cute” subjects, but that’s not what I’m selling. This work is about the Lao for the Lao, Lao people should give a fuck about.

On his reflections of Lao America.

Everything is sabai sabai. Everything’s at ease or at least that’s how I hide my anxieties. My reflections of Lao America is us, adding on our flavors into the American soup. We are still invisible in this country. But they will know who’s in the house when we bust out that dirty fish sauce.

His favorite piece of this collection is “B-boys will be B-boys”.

It connects two cultures in ways of dance, hip hop and Lao theater. I found the photo of traditional theater dancers from Bryan Thao Worra’s historical photo [that he posted on Facebook]. I depicted five boys; three standing in the back and two sitting up front with Puma windbreakers. This was similar to the ones me and my brother Von wore back in the day. The five boys represent my four brothers and myself standing to the left, defined in contour lines. The subjects are painted on top of an old painting I salvaged in the garbage, which was painted and thrown away by my brother Von.

Come check out the show with LLOTP’s Chanida Phaengdara Potter. Chantala promises that we’ll get to see him do “rap karaoke”. Now, that absolutely can’t be missed.

“Sabai Sabai” opens June 12th, 2015 at Nych Gallery 643 w. 18th Street, Chicago, IL 60618. Opening reception is from 5:00-10:00PM. Refreshments will be served, The show is free and open to the public.  June 12 through July 3, 2015. Gallery Hours, Tues-Friday 12-7pm and by appointments. Contact or 585-208-4593. Join the Facebook event here. Learn more about Chantala Kommanivanh’s work at

Sneak peek:

Sabai Sabai

Sabai Sabai

Sabai Sabai

Sabai Sabai

Sabai Sabai

Sabai Sabai


-Chanida Potter,

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