Lao American writers and artists from around the nation will gather for the first Lao American Writers Summit the weekend of August 13-15, 2010 at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. There event will host panel discussions, workshops, a resources fair, and author readings. It will be an opprtunity to get a perspective on the voice of this talented and emerging community. Early registration is available at discounted rates for the summit has already begun. These rates include discounts for students, elders and teachers until June 7, 2010.
The Lao American Writers Summit examines the transformative power of writing, and will address ways Lao American writers create and present work to transform their lives and their world. This is a historic gathering as many writers will be meeting each other face to face for the very first time. Organizers hope this will be a unique opportunity to meet fellow writers and readers, providing a fertile environment for creative inspiration and expression!
Mali Phonpadith, a poet based in Washington D.C. said “This is an opportunity to bring like-minded, passionate writers together to share ideas, learn from one another, and teach each other new ways of expression. I am excited to bring the Lao people together and have a more powerful voice through our writing.”
Lao culture traces its artistic and literary roots to the 14th century. Modern Laos, a nation approximately the size of Great Britain, is home to over 60 ethnicities, each with their own linguistic traditions and customs. In the United States there are approximately 200,000 Lao who have resettled here since the wars of the 20th century. Minnesota has the 3rd largest Lao refugee population in the US with 25,000 residents.
Confirmed participants of the Lao American Writers Summit include literary visionaries, film-makers, playwrights, spoken word artists and poets such as film maker Thavisouk Phrasavath, whose film, The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)” won the 2008 Oscar for Documentary Feature (Pandinlao Films); Catzie Vilayphonh of the spoken word duo Yellow Rage, Saymoukda Vongsay author of the chapbook “No Regrets,” acclaimed poets Phayvanh Leukhamhan and Souvankham Thammavongsa just to name a few.
It’s a significant year in Lao American art. In July, Cinco Punto Press will release a children’s book based upon the life of award-winning Lao American painter Mali Kouanchao. Writer Saymoukda Vongsay has been actively participating in a collaborative theater troupe, The Unit, regularly presenting new theatrical work to the community at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis.
Later, in October, the Twin Cities will prepare for the arrival of Refugee Nation, a national theater project based on the stories of Laotian refugees and their descendants. Since 2005, Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng collected oral histories from family and community members across the country from New England to Alaska. Several visual arts exhibits are also planned highlighting traditional and contemporary art from the Laotian community.
One of the major literary movements among the Lao in the United States was Satjadham, formed on April 11, 1995. It was conceived as a literary project which will introduce a new chapter in Lao literature. Its stated purpose is “to contribute to the wealth of Lao literature.” In addition, this project sought to introduce new and different perspectives from the viewpoints of overseas Lao. Between 1996 to 2002, SatJaDham held 7 conferences in cities such as Fresno, San Diego and Richmond, Seattle, Minneapolis, Elgin and Washington D.C.
A gathering of Lao writers has not been held in 7 years, despite significant literary and artistic achievements within the Lao community including the publication of several books, special projects and the release of the Oscar-nominated film Nerkahoon: The Betrayal. Last year, film-maker Paramita Nath released Found, a short film based upon the writing and experiences of poet Souvankham Thammavongsa.
“As we enter into the next decade, it becomes important to look at the way we tell our stories and share our visions with the present and future generations,” said Lao American writer Bryan Thao Worra, who recently released his book BARROW in October. Thao Worra has worked actively to create a space for Lao American writers, with work appearing across the country and internationally.
This year’s Summit has received funding and support from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Lao Assistance Center, Asian American Press, the Loft Literary Center and many others. For more information about this historic literary event and for summit updates, please email:[email protected] or visit the conference website at www.laowriters.org. ο