It's been one year since I moved to Minnesota and I am coming into full awareness of being-myself. Although I'm not quite completely out of my comfort zone, I am finding that it is hard to exist without a place to call home. I am within driving distance of one of the most concentrated Hmong communities in the United States, and though I am Hmong I cannot say that I belong here.
I moved to the Twin Cities to continue my investigation of what it means to be Hmong in America and since moving I have found the ground to confront who I am, a product of patriarchy. Through a series of workshops and collaborations with artist Magnolia Yang-Sao-Yia (YSY) my awareness of myself and experiences with patriarchy has been bubbling out of me.
Magnolia YSY: Restaging of Shh...Silence
Restaging of Shh... Silence
Choreography by Magnolia Yang-Sao-Yia
Photo Credits to Magnolia and Prakshi Malik
In restaging Shh...Silence, Magnolia invited several Hmong artists and activist to participate in her three day workshop exploring art making, movement, intersections with social justice, activism and radical healing. Six Twin Cities community members: Nakita Vang, Russ Ly, Shinaah Thao, Prakshi Malik, Steven Yang (including myself); accepted her invitation to engage in conversations around the topic of patriarchy in the Hmong culture, exploring ways to unsilence, define and confront it.
Through this space I shared many conversations about the violence and trauma growing up Hmong. I was already thinking critically about who I am, however this workshop pushed the boundaries between healing and retraumatizing to evoke conversations about patriarchy in the Hmong culture.
To practice healing and confrontation in the violence and oppression that still continues in my life has made a significant mark in how I feel about the words Hmong women and Hmong men. I wanted to have unforgivable conversations about the mundane Hmong experiences. Yes, Hmong people are resilient, but patriarchy is usually pushed under the blanket within the Hmong community, disregarded because it’s considered an accepted cultural tradition, because there are more important matters at hand that needs to be addressed. Patriarchy as I know it today, is a form of microaggression. It is a word that describes the silencing of women, it does not discriminate genders, it lives and thrives in our everyday activities.
It is the 5,000 nyab or wife jokes, instilling shame in women while perpetuating male dominance in Hmong culture. It is visible, yet subtle, sounds harmless and violent, patriarchy changes with the culture and changes with times. It is easy to fall into the rhythm of normalcy, especially when it is easier to live quietly than to push and go against the grains of the Hmong society.
Magnolia Yang-Sao-Yia is among the few Hmong artist or the only Hmong artist who engages dance in progressive/radical spaces to confront and heal. It was a privilege to be apart of her work. Since participating in the restaging of Shh...Silence, we been in many meaningful conversations. Thank you Magnolia, your hard work does make a difference and has definitely touched and healed many people in this community.
Please visit Magnolia Yang-Sao-Yia's website to learn more about her work: magnoliaysy.com