the Cultural Village
Featured Pop-Up Exhibit
by the Center for Lao Studies
In 2009, the Center for Lao Studies (CLS) launched the Lao Oral History Archive (LOHA) project to document the
untold stories of Lao refugees in the U.S. through audio and video media. The LOHA project team interviewed
over 20 families of varying ethnicities in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA and Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN and captured the stories of their journeys from life in Laos, to experiences in "reeducation" and refugee camps, to relocation and settlement in the United States.
With the generous support of the California Council for the Humanities, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Lao Assistance Center for Minnesota, and the Asian Pacific Endowment, CLS was able to record the interviews and create an on-line archive for them along with related photos and historical documents (www.laostudies.org/loha), which has served as a valuable resource for scholars and community members throughout the world. In 2013, with a community grant from the City of San Pablo, California, CLS created a mixed media and photographic installation entitled "Refugees Among Us," displayed at the San Pablo Art Gallery. The exhibit included artifacts, photos, documents, and a collection of videos of first-person narratives by multi-ethnic Lao Americans recounting their experiences.
Despite its effects on hundreds of thousands of multi-ethinc Lao, the U.S. government has never formally acknowledged the Secret War, which as a result is largely absent from American history. The public at large is unaware of America's role in Lao history or the genesis of the multi-ethnic Lao migration to the United States.
Through this project, CLS will reconcile a need to illuminate, preserve and share these missing pieces of history. Furthermore, the B2W fills a gap in the field of Lao Studies at a critical time. As the first generation of multiethnic Lao refugees ages, their eyewitness accounts and extraordinary life experiences are in danger of being lost forever. Our project will document and preserve these narratives, forming a permanent resource for academic institutions, for the multi-ethnic Lao community, and for the general public. The B2W traveling exhibit will consist of four homes, which will compose of:
• Photos and Artifacts;
• Interview footage of local refugees from Laos in each host city (San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Redding, Fresno, and San Diego);
• Multi media interactive self-guide tour in English, Lao, Khmu, lu-Mien, and Hmong;
• Lao history curriculum development ;
• Community activities;
• And more.
Between Two Worlds will present and juxtapose these crucial stages of refugees from Laos and American Lao of varying ethnicities history through the representation of four homes. As they move physically and symbolically through each, visitors will be asked to contemplate ideas of "home" as seen through the eyes of people for whom the notion is precarious, and for those who have lived or are still living "between two worlds." The exhibit highlights the ways in which the refugees from Laos migration exerted pressure on cultural norms, and how survival involved both radical loss and creative adaptation.
"A confined home is livable; a confined heart is not."