» Catalyst Series
Legacies of War

Co-presented with Legacies of War, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota & Pangea World Theater
Exhibition Run: September 30 - October 26, 2010
OPENING RECEPTION: 6PM Thursday, September 30

National Traveling Exhibition
with local guest curator MALICHANSOUK KOUANCHAO

The Legacies of War National Traveling Exhibition tells the story of a forgotten chapter in U.S. history through the voices of villagers from Laos and the diaspora at large. The exhibition has traveled to ten U.S. cities and to Dublin, Ireland, and makes its Midwest debut at Intermedia Arts.

In the 1960s, when Lao civilians were being secretly bombed and displaced as refugees of 'The Secret War,' they had no other way, no language or tools to communicate with the outside world about their experiences except through a series of crude, hand-drawn sketches shown to visiting foreigners. But this art was enough to provoke questions that ultimately led to world awareness of what was happening during the CIA's covert war for Laos, and in many ways these sketches reshaped the destiny of over 400,000 Laotians and Hmong in the United States today.

The lingering effects of war transcend physical and geopolitical boundaries. Those who fled their homeland live a parallel life to those who remain on the war-torn land. Their sense of loss, suffering and eventual survival and transformation are an interconnected journey. Rooted in the power of history, healing and hope, Legacies of War was founded to connect the experiences of war and peace across communities, continents and generations.

During the U.S. bombing in Laos, an American educational adviser and his Laotian colleague collected illustrations and narratives from Laotian refugees. Etched in pencil, pens, crayons and markers, these accounts are raw and stark, reflecting the crude events that shaped the reality of these victims’ lives. Only a small circle of individuals knew of the existence of these illustrations.

Decades later, the illustrations were rediscovered by Legacies of War Executive Director Channapha Khamvongsa and were returned to the Laotian-American community. Today, accompanied by historical photos, maps and other relevant documents about the decade-long bombing, they form the core of the Legacies of War National Traveling Exhibition.

This nationally touring exhibit includes archival and contemporary images, art and video depicting the lives of those affected by the Vietnam-era bombing in Laos and the broader impact of war and conflict on Laotian refugees and the diaspora. Local artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, guest curates this Midwest exhibition, with the inclusion of a new collective art piece, Our Shared Journey, which was contributed by local community members recruited by Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota.

The National Traveling Exhibition features illustrations drawn in 1971 in Laos by the survivors of the U.S. bombing, archival and contemporary photographs, original recorded interviews and documentary films depicting the lives of those affected by the bombing and their impact on the Laotian diaspora.

Legacies of War is presented in conjunction with the Refugee Nation National Traveling Performance, a collection of oral histories that reveals connections between American and Southeast Asian history, and the unique challenges faced by political refugees and their American children. It gives voice to the Lao Diaspora - often excluded from the American experience. Refugee Nation is about a young generation struggling to understand their history and the silence of an elder generation still healing from the traumas of war.

Photo (above): Mor, 4-year old girl from Laos plays in her backyard, surrounded by 40-year old cluster bomb casings. Photo credit: Phil Borges


Sponsored by Bryant-Lake Bowl.





Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota has been enhancing the quality of life for Minnesota Lao families since 1983. Our goals include meeting basic needs, increased self-reliance and youth development, reduced social isolation and promoting cultural equity. Our programs serve Lao families including at-risk low and moderate-income households.



Pangea World Theater (www.pangeaworldtheater.org) begins from the fundamental paradigm of diversity in the world.  Our work expresses this reality and our organization advances this possibility consciously. Pangea World Theater is a progressive space for transformation in which conversations about race, gender, ethnicity, human rights, politics and social justice form an important backbone for our work. Our ensemble is experimenting with form and content to create new processes for a new aesthetic addressing the demographic shifts in our country.


Legacies of War, a national nonprofit, seeks to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocate for the clearance of unexploded bombs, to provide space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace.

This project is made possible in part by support from Arts Midwest, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Asian Pacific Endowment. Refugee Nation is a part of Intermedia Arts' Catalyst Series.