Category Archives: Art

Frangipani, Flower of Love and Death

A beautiful fragrant flower evokes a complex range of emotions.

Preparing to lift off

The Lao Rocket Festival

One of the most uniquely Lao holidays is the Rocket Festival.

Japan x Sabai: Sounds, Sights, Tastes, Smiles, Friendship a Feast at Tokyo’s Laos Festival ’19

Laos Festival 2019 Celebrated in Tokyo, Japan May 25-26, 2019

Dancing, Friendship, Frivolity & Unmistakable Sound of World Heritage Listed Bamboo-Piped Khaen Among the Greetings to Tokyo’s Famous Yoyogi Park for Japan’s Laos Festival 2019, The Laotian Times reports.

Never Give Up! Rising Star Alita Gets Set to Shine At Cool & Kawaii Japan 2019

Alita Alounsavath at Cool & Kawaii Japan 2019 in Vientiane, Laos

Laos’ singer and rising star Alita Alounsavath is set to perform in the capital Vientiane for Cool & Kawaii Japan 2018 on Saturday evening (Feb 16).

Voices of the Wind

“We take bamboo and we take trees and we turn them into traditional music.”

– Neng Chue Vang, Hmong instrument maker and musician

Art + Altitude: Elevations Takes Exploration of Laos’ Depth of Artistic Forms, Inspirations to New Heights

Depths by Elevations Laos (Laos Briefly)

by Julia Case-Levine

Traditional practices accompany contemporary trends in Depths, the inaugural exhibit of Elevations, a non-profit art initiative launched this month in the Southeast Asian nation of Laos.

Launched last Friday night in the Lao capital Vientiane and continuing until January 16th, the exhibition is both an international event, including artists from China to Cambodia, and a celebration of work of three local artists, Tcheu Siong, Bounpaul Phothyzan and Souliya Phoumivon.

This month, the trio will become the first-ever group of artists from Laos to be included in Brisbane, Australia’s Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, the Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery of Modern Art’s flagship exhibition.

Depths is divided into three “chapters”—Other, Lands and Selves—reflecting themes explored in the work of Siong, Phothyzan, and Phoumivon respectively.

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

These sections, each occupying a room at I:Cat, present traditional visual and textile work alongside contemporary sculpture, installations and audio-visuals.

The result is a sprawling, impressive debut fitting an ambitious new organization.

Significantly, Depths showcases video and material installation by artists from Laos —including forms that have not always resonated with a local audience.

As Phothyzan explained in a panel at Elevation’s opening symposium; “When I exhibited conceptual work in Laos once before, the reaction was not good. The interest was not here—the thought was that the arts must be drawing, painting, visuals.”

In Depths, Phothyzan’s material installation is a trio of mounted bombshells, each precariously supporting an empty, white, hauntingly pristine birdhouse. His work powerfully reflects both on the devastations of Laos’ recent history of war and his late father’s career as a soldier.

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

At Elevation’s Symposium event, Lao artists spoke of the pressure to focus on traditional painting and sculpture as these forms remain the most lucrative, thanks to the demand that is driven by the tourist industry.

Phoumivon, who graduated from Laos’ National Institute of Fine Arts in 2008, found his departure from visual work met with outright disapproval: “People asked me, how are you going to feed your family, make money in Laos if you are not painting?”

Erin Gleeson, Elevation’s founding artistic director and curator, hoped to answer this question by developing a space supportive of both traditional and non-visual art forms. Says Gleeson: “We wanted to create an environment in which it felt right to show not only painting but also [installation] work artists might usually show outside.”

Phoumivon’s marvellous stop-motion animation—an eerie, playful series depicting humans transforming into a colorful herd of buffalo—represents, in part, Phoumivon’s struggle to resist social pressure and follow his artistic instincts.

“It’s easy to follow the train of society—to become a buffalo. If you simply follow trends, follow materialistic impulses, even highly educated people can become buffalos,” Phoumivon says.

While Elevations places Lao artists among their international peers in Depths, the organization also aims to encourage growth in the local art world. Public programs—ranging from film screenings to art-classes—offer support for emerging artists.

A reading room in Little House Café, a short walk from the gallery, allows patrons to browse texts on art history, theory and practice, while children can color on worksheets inspired by the gallery exhibition.

In addition to its public programs, Elevations is organizing a competition for local emerging artists on even years and a subsequent international exhibition on odd years.

Elevations was founded by Gary Stafford of the Spellbrook Foundation. Stafford served as a managing director of Brisbane-based copper and gold miner PanAust Limited, best known in Laos for its Phu Bia Mining subsidiary.During Stafford’s 18 years managing PanAust, he frequently travelled to Laos, his interest in art collection gradually familiarizing him with the local scene.

When he began investigating how to support emerging Lao artists he was introduced to Gleeson, who at the time was serving as curator and the founding Artistic Director of SA SA BASSAC in Phnom Penh.

The two collaborated to create a unique initiative that would best suit Laos, drawing on support from the Australian Embassy, STELLA, and I:Cat gallery.

Elevations aims to enrich an artistic ecosystem in Southeast Asia by nurturing connections between diverse artists. “If we bring the right people together, networks are formed and opportunities are made,” Gleeson says.

Guo-Liang Tan, an exhibiting artist from Singapore, attests. “Already we’ve exchanged many stories, developed personal and professional relationships.”

Tan also observed the opportunity for intercultural learning afforded by exhibiting abroad. “It’s a great chance for those of us not from Laos to learn about a place many of us have not yet been.”

The visiting artists were introduced to Vientiane on a tour led by Elevations last Friday, focusing on the city’s artistic and literary history.

Although Depths’ range can be dizzying, its lack of focus is often a strength—in moments, contrast creates a delightful tension between works.

Such is the case in the exhibition’s second chapter, Lands, in which a panel of austere, serene water patterns are shown beside destructive, explosive rivers in looping video footage of the impact of humanity on nature for our modern power needs.

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Among a number of superb pieces—such as prints that transform abandoned lots into dreamy landscapes and a photo-series that documents a Hmong legend as lived out in America—the colorful, enigmatic needlework of Lao artist Tcheu Siong is not to be missed.

Siong translates her dreams into large-scale textiles, relying on Hmong mythology and her husband’s shamanistic practice as interpretive tools. While her work is rooted in tradition, the product is something utterly unique, and unlike the full canvases and bold geometric patterns of traditional Hmong textile.

Her textiles depict human figures engulfed in cheerfully polka-dotted creatures. Heart shaped decals flower across the canvas like otherworldly eyes. Appliqués appear simple geographic forms at first glance, but upon closer observation reveal themselves as bodied animals and humans.

The blend of old and new in Siong’s work perhaps best exemplifies Depth’s power as a conceptually modern exhibition that doesn’t belittle or dismiss traditional practices but considers how these may be used in fresh and unusual ways.

Text: Julia Case-Levine
Images: Laos Briefly

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)
Depths, an exhibition by Elevations at I:Cat Gallery Simeuang Village in Vientiane, Laos. (Laos Briefly)

Depths at I: Cat Gallery, Simeuang Village, Vientiane Capital, Laos until January 16, 2019.

Opening hours:

Everyday 11:00 – 18:00

Phone for appointment: 020 77839674

Email: icatgallery@gmail.com

Depths Exhibition by Elevations Laos

Depths Exhibition by Elevations Laos

Road to Tokyo2020 Paralympics via Catwalk as Athletes Make Model Efforts

Lao Paralympic Athletes

Tears of joy, pain and expectation; the road to Tokyo2020 Games, like all Olympics and Paralympics before them, is being paved with them, and particularly in the South-East Asian nation of Laos.

The efforts of aspiring Paralympic athletes as they strive to achieve personal bests and to represent their nations at the highest level have always resulted in the shedding of the proverbial “blood, sweat and tears” at locations from one corner of the globe to another.

The fashion industry might seem many metaphorical miles away from the sporting arena in form and function, but the will to compete and the struggle to break down barriers continues apace, in this case in the South-East Asian nation of Laos.

That was the case as Lao Fashion Week teamed up once again with Laos-active Japan NGO Asian Development with the Disabled Persons (ADDP) to showcase Laos’ parasports athletes alongside employees of inclusive social enterprise as amateur fashion models on Laos’ fashion’s biggest professional stage, working to break down barriers to participation in across society.

Pumped to the powerful voice of emerging Lao teen singing sensation Alita Alounsavath to the strains of “never give up, no, no”, the crowd in the Lao capital rose to their feet to applaud the participants and the efforts of the participants and the NGO that supports their struggle to make dreams a reality against the odds.

Alita Alounsavath

Alita Sings up a storm at Lao Fashion Week for ADDP on Road to Tokyo 2020.

 

Adorned with creations by Japanese flower designer Norie, the models continued a long-running annual collaboration between LFW and ADDP to help make the show a reality. Among them was Pia, who represented Laos at the Rio 2016 Paralympics in powerlifting.

Indeed, the connection between sporting and socio-economic participation lies at the heart of the organisation’s mission. Initiatives of ADDP include the Parasports Promotion Project with support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which seeks to smooth the path to greater participation on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and beyond.

The project involves providing training and expertise from Japan and beyond to benefit parasports athletes and coaches in Laos to compete in multiple sports.

The program most recently saw Parasports Powerlifting training in Kyushu, Japan under experienced coach Takashi Jo before participating in Asia-pacific regional championships in the city of Kita-Kyushu.

Wheelchair basketball and goalball, an adapted sport for the vision impaired, also feature in the project.

The latter sport was the subject of a short film inspired by the life and sporting efforts of Lao goalball athlete Ms La Dalavong, whose young life was forever changed by an accident by war-era unexploded ordnance (UXO) before discovering a path forward through sport. A Lao New Wave Cinema production, the film visited the inspiring athlete in her home village and on the sporting court in Vientiane

Other ADDP initiatives include the sign-language friendly and inclusive Minna-no-Cafe where customers and staff alike can communicate with the hard of hearing.

The NGO also works with its employees to produce a range of popular cookies which are for sale at various outlets including the cafe.

ADDP was also a participant in efforts that saw the creation of a Lao-Japan Friendship Sakura Park in Viengxay district, Huaphan province planted with Japanese cherry blossom trees.

As in all nations, the participation of disabled persons in Laos comes up against various barriers of access, physical, social and institutional.

It is understood that greater participation for all people and profile of disability issues in Laos can be increased via ADDP initiatives and major events such as Lao Fashion Week. As in fashion, by celebrating the achievements of past and present participants and strengthening pathways, the dreams of the aspiring Paralympic competitors and fashion industry participants are nurtured alike.

For an industry often criticised as fickle and superficial, initiatives such as this prove the adage that fashion can have a big heart. I’m not crying… you’re crying! Somebody dry my eyes!

Images via Laos Briefly

     

Who is Nang Sangkhan (Miss New Year Queen)?

In recent years, Laos has become increasingly open to international women’s beauty pageants as evidenced by its sending contestants to the Miss International Queen, Miss Grand, Miss World, Miss International, and most notably Miss Universe Pageants. There, the beautiful women are adorned in modern attire, sports gear, national dresses and of course, swimsuits.

However, in Lao beauty pageants, the more layers a woman has on, the better. Gorgeous handmade silk dresses and sparkling gold jewelry are in style and if one wants to be the Miss New Year Queen (Nang Sangkhan), that’s what you have to wear.

Traditionally, the Miss New Year Queen Competition was only held in Luang Prabang. Nowadays, the other provinces have their own Miss New Year Pageants. Apart from the Miss Laos competition, it’s one of the most talked about pageants in the country.

Who was Nang Sangkhan in early Lao mythology? Here’s SEASite’s brief introduction to the legend of Kabilaphom:

Kabilaphom, the legendary Heavenly King with a four-faced head, often asked people to solve riddles. If they provided the wrong answer, he would have them beheaded. One day, he asked a particularly wise young man to solve a complex riddle within seven days. Feeling confident in the difficulty of the task, Kabilaphom stated that he would forfeit both his own head and his Kingdom if the young man were successful. On the seventh day, the young man solved the riddle and Kabilaphom subsequently ordered his seven daughters to proffer his head to the wise man. However, because Kabilaphom possessed such great powers, severing his four-faced head would be a catalyst for disaster. If his head fell to the ground, the earth would burn. If it were submerged in water, oceans and rivers would boil. If thrown into the air, tornadoes would destroy the earth. To avoid such devastation, Kabilaphom instructed the young man to present his head to his daughters to keep deep inside the earth. In a demonstration of respect, however, Kabilaphom’s head had to be paraded on a sacred silver receptacle in an annual procession to prevent the occurrence of natural disasters. Therefore, during the annual New Year Festival, the seven daughters, each recognizable by her own characteristic animal, flower, and other identifying features, parade Kabilaphom’s four-faced head for all to see.

The Four-Faced Head of Heavenly King, Kabilaphom

And this daughter is Nang Sangkhan (Miss New Year Queen) who is chosen, along with her other 6 sisters (runners-up), to parade their father’s head in an annual procession that is quite a spectacle in itself.

Here’s a look at some of this year’s Miss New Year Queens!

 

Miss New Year Queens Luang Prabang 2561. View more photos at Diamond Studio.

 

Miss New Year Queens Vientiane Capital 2561. View more photos at Miss Vientiane FB Page

 

Miss New Year Queens Champasak 2561. View more photos at Miss Champasak FB Page.

 

Miss New Year Queen Savannakhet 2561

 

Miss New Year Queen Xekong 2561

 

Miss New Year Queens Khammouane 2561.

Source: Muan
Photo Credit: Ketsana Keosouvannaseng, Kham Kham, Tourism Savannakhet, Koud Svl, Thongdee Bouabane Photos Grapher, Diamond Studio, Laos, Luang Prabang Moradok, Nounee Soukthavee