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Panel Discussion: War, Memory and Representation in Art: Burma, Korea, Laos, & Vietnam
January 28, 2009 @ 10:00 pm - January 29, 2009 @ 12:00 am
In the forum “War, Memory and Representation in Art: Burma, Korea, Laos, & Vietnam,” panelists Kyi May Kaung, Annabel Park, Channapha Khamvongsa, and Anna Huong will explore the unique ability of art to bring collective experiences of suffering into the public discourse. Their own experiences and work have touched deeply on the relationship between art and social justice. In her work with Legacies of War, Channapha found that “the integration of storytelling, art, and performance are critical in breaking the silence” that surrounded wartime experiences. Through art, traumatic individual memories can be woven into a larger context of community grief, reconciliation, and healing. “The acknowledgement of a shared journey and struggle could lead to collective strength and power,” Channapha says.
Such memories of conflict and suffering are not confined to the past, but resonate with current events. In 1991, when the first Iraq War began, Huong says, “I came face to face with the memory of the war and my demons. The numbed grief inside leaked out. The memories poured out and ached within me.” Huong responded to this “call to action” with her famous Peace Mural, where the discussion will take place. The mural includes nearly 2000 paintings, and when fully presented, stands eight feet tall and 600 feet long. The exhibit runs until January 30.
About the panelists:
• Filmmaker and activist Annabel Park emigrated to the U.S. when she was nine years old. She is known for her innovative work combining new media and grassroots organizing. In 2007, she was the national coordinator for 121 Coalition and organized the historic grassroots-netroots lobbying campaign to successfully pass House Resolution 121, the “comfort women” resolution addressing the issue of girls and women trafficked into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WWII. Annabel’s work with the 9500 Liberty project can be found here.
• Artist and researcher Kyi May Kaung was born in Rangoon, Burma where she was an Associate Professor of Economics from 1978 to 1988. Her Ph.D. dissertation, from the University of Pennsylvania, is on the erosion of human rights and the devastating effects of central control in Burma. She is based in Washington DC and is now an independent scholar, writer, and artist. Since 1997, she has worked in
international radio, and with The Burma Fund as a Senior Researcher. An interview Kyi May conducted with Huong at FPIF can be found here.
• Channapha Khamvongsa, co-founder and executive director of Legacies of War, was born in Vientiane, Laos. In 1979, at the age of 6, her family fled Laos to Nong Khai refugee camp in Thailand, and her family eventually immigrated to the United States in 1980. In 2004, Channapha co-founded Legacies of War, which uses art, culture, education, community organizing, and dialogue to bring people together and create healing and transformation out of the wreckage of war. Channapha currently advises philanthropic institutions on their strategic planning and giving at Public Interest Projects, a New Yorkbased nonprofit.
• For more than 30 years, Huong has communicated her message for peace as an artist, former journalist, mother, Vietnam War refugee and fervent social activist. Huong was a 25-year-old mother and Vietnamese journalist when she escaped her war-torn country in 1975 on the eve before the fall of Saigon, catching one of the last refugee life boats and wearing only one shoe while clutching her infant son. She soon embarked upon a journey that took her to Guam, then to California, and finally to Alaska, where she turned to art. Nearly 15 years in the making, Huong’s Peace Mural is the culmination of searing memories that bring history to life and depict the universal pain of war and hope for peace.
Moderator: Emira Woods, Co-Director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, is an expert in U.S. – Africa relations. Prior to joining the IPS staff, Emira was Program Manager for the Committee on Development Policy and Practice at InterAction, serving as a principle staff contact for advocacy at the UN, the international financial institutions, USAID, and Treasury.