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Saint Paul Artist Oskar Ly: An Organizer and Ambassador for Hmong Arts

[ndlr] Coup d’œil sur le travail de l’artiste Hmong Oskar Ly (article de Nicole Rupersburg).

Oskar Ly © 2014, photo by Bill Kelley
Oskar Ly © 2014, photo by Bill Kelley

There are roughly 30,000 Hmong-Americans living in Saint Paul, Minnesota today, more than any other city in the country. The Twin Cities Metro area has a Hmong population of 64,000. While those may seem like small numbers when compared to the total population of 3.28 million in Twin Cities Metro, they are significant for a culture that has been historically small and relatively insular. […]

Oskar Ly is a Hmong French American living in Saint Paul. She grew up in a traditional Hmong household where her mother was always sewing, and as she got older Ly decided she wanted to make her own fashions. Ly is a fashion designer, hair and makeup artist, singer and songwriter, and much of what she does is to foster and promote Hmong arts and talent in the Saint Paul area.

It was through Hmong-organized open mics that Ly found her voice, so to speak, and was able to explore singing and songwriting. « Those are things I didn’t get to practice growing up, » she says. « It wasn’t encouraged. [Hmong] parents came from a refugee background and wanted something more for us; they wanted [their children to have] traditional careers. »

For her, creating music is an opportunity to celebrate and share Hmong culture. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Hmong music; it can be inspired by pop, folk, hip-hop, or anything else. « I personally don’t write in Hmong but others do, » she says. « People find self empowerment in their own language when even their parents don’t read or write in Hmong. We’re losing our language by the generation. Hmong don’t have their own national country; we’re hill tribe people. Because of a long history of being persecuted, Hmong people never had the ability to capture their language like other counties have in terms of writing – even something as simple as the alphabet [doesn’t exist]. »

Lire la suite : The Line, 17/03/2014.