All posts filed under: History

MIA Erasure, My Reflection

To much fanfare, the exhibit Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975 opened in Minnesota at the Minneapolis Institute of Art this month and will run until January 5th, 2020. It’s billed as a way to look at “the innovative ways artists talked back, often in the streets and other public venues. The exhibition presents nearly 100 works by 58 of the period’s most visionary, provocative artists.” For Southeast Asians of Vietnamese, Hmong, Laotian, and Cambodian descent, and active military veterans, you can even see the exhibit for free. It’s been a long time since I’ve been given free admission to an art exhibit to witness the complete erasure of my community’s perspective and reactions to the Vietnam War, the Secret War, and the Killing Fields. For Minnesotans, who arguably have one of the most deeply tangled relationships with Southeast Asia than almost any other US state, this ought to be a stirring and profound exhibit: one filled with so many heartbreaking memories and reflections on themes and issues addressed over four decades ago, …

Landmarks of Laos: Hidden sites of yesteryear pt. 1

Although Vientiane aspires to be the shining capital of the Lao polity, in the race to develop and give the main thoroughfares a shiny façade, there are plenty of hidden places that stand as silent reminders of days gone past, as they await their turn to shine again. During the Lao Civil War (1959-1975), missionaries came into Laos to offer assistance to the war ravaged population. Churches were built, such as this one in 1973 in Thongkhankham Village, which is a prominently Sino-Vietnamese commercial district. It was only used as a church for two years until the revolution and being “gifted” to the new government as the missionaries fled. Now it stands as the Office of Justice for Chanthabouly District. Only a few steps away stands a building abandoned a bit later. This was the small Trường Tiểu Học Nguyễn Du II School, teaching the children of prominent Sino-Vietnamese traders in both Lao and Vietnamese. Sometime in the early part of this century, when better private education options became available, this school was gradually abandoned …