Of late I’ve been trumpeting the struggles of artists, but trying to promote respect for and a better understanding of my Laotian culture and heritage is also difficult.
Laotian refers to the many groups of people from the small country of Laos (silent “S”). Lao refers to the main spoken and written language as well as the main ethnic group.
It’s not often that you have a collection of immigrants that is only a few decades removed from the drastic events that changed the landscape of a country and its people. Most Laotians here started off as refugees or are the sons and daughters of refugees.
So it’s my opinion, and many other Laotian people would probably agree, that we are relatively unknown, even in the Asian context.
The supposed “ghetto” of Southeast Asia has produced doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, architects, chemists, business owners, realtors, college professors, Ph.D’s, musicians, actors, writers, poets, and of course an artist that at first glance only draws pictures of girls…
(I must apologize, but sarcasm is one of the many things I learned growing up in America.)
I’m not implying that “professional” careers are the only way to judge success, because most of us, myself included, come from simple farmers, and continue to do humble tasks to get by.
Not everything in the contemporary Laotian world is sugarcoated though. There are bad seeds and bad apples (or mangoes), people who would retaliate much harsher than a simple blog post, at even the hint of an insult towards their culture.
We have the same problems that other cultures face: infidelity, alcoholism, gambling, school drop outs, teen pregnancy, segmentation within our own community–but it would be nice for a change if some people didn’t already look at us with preconceived notions.
As of right now, maybe it is okay to let the beauty of our cultural and social events draw people in. Whether it be the costumes and dances, or pretty face of a Laotian covergirl, if that opens their eyes, then perhaps their minds will follow.
Okay I’ll step away from the podium… 😉
Our little dance team did a great job, hooray!
Notes: Most of the photos were taken by friends. The umbrella and softbox were not reliable so all the shots were taken with just one off-camera speedlight. The wide angle distortion was necessary because there was no room to back up. Thanx to everyone that helped, and especially to those who complimented us and were pleased to walk away with a souvenir. Now that I look back and forget about the stress, it was a just fun spot for goofy photos.