By C.C. Thongdara
HERNDON, Va. (Sept. 9, 2015) — The Lao Heritage Foundation will celebrate the arts at their 11th annual cultural Gala on Sept. 26, 2015, starting at 7 p.m. at the Herndon Community Center, 814 Ferndale Ave., Herndon, VA 20172.
This year, the Sahtu Press authors Nor Sanavongsay and Krysada Panusith Phounsiri are attending the festivities as featured guests. “I’m very excited to be joining everyone in Virginia this year,” Sanavongsay said. “The Lao Heritage Foundation was very supportive of me when I was getting my start as an artist, and I’m delighted to have a chance to give back to the community.”
Participants will have a chance to enjoy delicious traditional Lao cuisine, and traditional music & dance performed by the students of the Lao Heritage Foundation’s classes in Washington D.C.. A dance will follow with music provided by the Woodbridge Band. There will be items for auction and raffles to raise funds to sustain and expand the cultural programs of the Lao Heritage Foundation.
This year the Lao celebrate 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War. Almost a quarter of a million Lao are in America, represented in all walks of life, but many communities still struggle to keep in touch with their rich artistic and cultural heritage. “Many of the Lao traditions were rooted in oral transmission, and during the early refugee years, we didn’t have a lot of support for students to take classes or to fully understand where they came from,” Sanavongsay noted. “But as we get older and raise our families, we need to consider what legacy we want to give as a gift to those who come after us.”
Krysada Panusith Phounsiri is a Lao-American Artist and Engineer. His debut collection of poetry “Dance Among Elephants,” was published by Sahtu Press in 2015. His work has been featured in the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement and the Smithsonian’s “A Day In The Life Of Asian America” digital exhibit. He is currently the chair of the National Lao American Writers Summit that will convene in San Diego in 2016 for the very first time. He has been touring widely in recent months to promote his first book, and enjoys working with Lao youth to inspire them to achieve success and to give back to the community.
A handsome man with profound depth to his penetrating features, Panusith Phounsiri was born in Laos in 1988 and came to America with his family in 1989. He’s a 2010 UC Berkeley graduate with an distinctive double major in Physics & Astrophysics and a minor in Poetry. He’s praised as a versatile dancer and photographer, traveling worldwide to teach workshops and compete artistically. He is a founding member of the Snap Pilots Photography Project.
With the soulful eyes of a true artist, Nor Sanavongsay is an award-winning Lao American writer in the San Francisco Bay area and the founder of Sahtu Press. He has presented widely across the US at events such as the SatJaDham conferences, the National Lao American Writers Summit, and the Lao Artists Festival of Elgin. Sahtu Press is an innovative nonprofit publishing company with the mission to promote Lao literature to the world.
“I think it’s important for our community to value our stories shared in our own words,” Sanavongsay said. “I want my children to be proud of where they come from and to appreciate our shared journey.”
With a tireless ambition and a relentless pursuit of perfection, Sanavongsay writes lavishly illustrated children’s books inspired by Lao folktales, such as Xieng Mieng: A Sticky Mess, and is working on many original creations. He’s a soft-spoken man with an extraordinary vision, and worked previously for international companies like Encyclopaedia Britannica, Sears, Zoosk and Barnes & Noble before following his own dreams. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, he and his family came to the US in 1979, ultimately coming to Elgin, Illinois.
The Lao Heritage Foundation began with a shared vision as a small group of individuals came together from across the country to form the Lao Heritage Foundation. They wanted to create a pioneering organization that promoted the knowledge of Lao culture and preserved the Lao visual and performing arts, and crafts. They are now celebrating their 11th year. The writer Mali Phonpadith will also share her experiences during the evening. Tickets are $35 each with proceeds benefitting the work of the Lao Heritage Foundation.