Between History and New Horizons: Photographs of Women, Work, and Community in Laos

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For most of the 100+ distinct ethnic groups found throughout the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, textile making has long been considered the domain of women. In recent years, however, the lives of many have undergone extraordinary change due to slow, but steady economic development; new cash-based livelihood strategies; and migration. This is particularly true for ethnic minority women. In the face of land tenure insecurity, poor crop yields, and resettlement, textile production is often the primary generator of household income in addition to being a way of preserving the cultural history of families and communities. Still, cloth making is but one aspect of women’s workday.

What constitutes labor in this shifting economy and how do women depict their roles in it? Consisting of professional portraits and personal photographs, Between History and New Horizons: Photographs of Women, Work, and Community in Laos, offers a window into the changing lives of rural, ethnic women.

Co-organized by Asia Society Texas Center and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC), Luang Prabang, the exhibition features photos from TAEC’s archives as well as images produced by participants in a community-based project entitled Stiching our Stories. The latter is led by PhotoForward, which seeks to equip minority women with tools to document their own lives. Between History and New Horizons provides an all-too-infrequent glimpse of contemporary Laos, the perspectives of ethnic women, and the transformation of traditional skills into modern livelihoods.

About Our Partners

The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos
Founded in 2006, the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre is a museum in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. The Centre’s mission is to promote pride and appreciation for the cultures and knowledge of Laos’ diverse peoples, support ethnic communities to safeguard their tangible and intangible cultural heritage, and promote their sustainable livelihood development. It is the only independent non-profit museum and resource centre in the country dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of the traditional arts and lifestyles of the country’s many and diverse ethnic groups.

PhotoForward
PhotoForward arts and media programs were launched in 2005 to empower artists of all ages to share their own stories through photography, visual arts, community art, and digital media. PhotoForward works with partner organizations in New York, Cambodia, and Laos to develop sustainable programs that engage local populations in documenting their lives and celebrating their community’s history, while defining its future.

Opening Program

Night Market

 

To mark the opening of Asia Society’s fall exhibitions that highlight the creative labor of women textile makers, the Texas Center will host a special “night market” on November 7, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. Influenced by the vibrant energy of street markets found throughout Asia, the family-friendly evening will feature Asian-inspired food, hand-crafted, fair-trade goods, music, and more.

To date, participating food vendors include: Best of Filipiniana, Caphin, Goro & Gun, Greenway Coffee, Flip 'n Patties, It’s a Wrap, Juice It Raw!, Melange Creperie, MuSuBi, and Nougat Desserts & Confections. Urban Harvest Farmers Market vendors include: Big Creek Farms, Orchid Obsession, Pat Greer’s Kitchen, Texas T Kobe, LLC, The Utility Research Garden, and yaya’s RAW Rah, LLC.

Asia Society Night Market co-hosts, The Community Cloth, She Has Hope, and Ten Thousand Villages, will sell hand-crafted, fair-trade goods made by girls and women from Southeast Asia. She Has Hope will feature goods made by women recovering from lives of forced prostitution and human trafficking.

Night Market guests will be entertained by the sounds of renowned Houston DJ and Soular Grooves radio host DJ SUN, while magician David Rangel wows the crowd with his sleight of hand tricks.

Asia Society Members and guests may register for a complimentary Express Pass, valid for priority entry at the opening reception for Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia, located in the Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery.

 

Express Pass Registration

Click here to register for a complimentary Express Pass.

Press Release

Two New Exhibitions at Asia Society Texas Center Highlight Women Textile Makers from Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia Night Market Creates Street Scene of Flavors and Delights for Opening

HOUSTON, TX (September 12, 2013)—Asia Society Texas Center continues its second year of programming with two unique exhibitions highlighting the creative labor of women textile makers from Southeast Asia.

The exhibitions: Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia, organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and Between History and New Horizons: Photographs of Women, Work, and Community in Laos, co-organized by the Texas Center and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, provide a look at the evolution of making textiles with words and photos capturing women’s daily struggles and achievements. The exhibitions run concurrently from November 7, 2013, through February 9, 2014.

Weavers' Stories from Island Southeast Asia, Organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA
In Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia, 10 women from Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia, and the Philippines tell their own stories through stunning cloths and videotaped oral histories. For these women, textile creation is a delicate balance between honoring tradition and adapting their craft for the 21st century.

Weavers’ Stories offers further proof that textile production is very much a contemporary practice,” said Sabrina Lynn Motley, Senior Director of Programs & Exhibitions for Asia Society Texas Center. “We hope that people walk away with a sense of the depth of these women’s inventiveness as well as their varied perspectives on life and the meaning of their creative labor.”

Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia was curated by Roy W. Hamilton, who is the Senior Curator of Asian and Pacific Collections at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Major support was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the R.L. Shep Endowment Fund of the Fowler Museum. Additional support was provided by the Asian Cultural Council, the Fowler Museum Textile Council and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Republic of the Philippines.

Between History and New Horizons: Photographs of Women, Work, and Community in Laos, Co-Organized by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC), Luang Prabang
Between History and New Horizons: Photographs of Women, Work, and Community in Laos, depicts moments in the lives of women from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Co-organized by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) in Luang Prabang, the exhibition consists of both professional portraits and personal photographs and offers a window into the work and personal lives of rural women. For many, textile making has become a primary generator of household income as well as a way to preserve the cultural history of family and community. Still, this labor is but one aspect of a woman’s workday.

Asia Society Texas Center is proud to partner with the only independent non-profit museum in Laos dedicated to the country’s ethnic peoples and their traditional arts. According TAEC’s co-founder Tara Gujadhur, “In addition to anchor photographs from TAEC’s own archives, the exhibition contains images produced by participants in Stitching our Stories. A PhotoForward project, its goal is to equip minority women with tools to document their own lives.” Gujadhur continues, “Laos is teeming with cultural diversity. While there is a rich history in textile production, it is rapidly and radically being altered by modern life. The exhibition reveals that the very meaning of labor, not to mention women’s role in their families and communities, is in flux.”

Opening Program: Asia Society Night Market
To mark the opening of the exhibitions, Asia Society Texas Center will host a special night market inspired by the vibrant energy of a typical Asian street market. Asia Society Night Market will take place on November 7 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm and will feature foods, crafts, and more. To date, participating food vendors include: Best of Filipiniana, Goro & Gun, Greenway Coffee, and Melange Creperie. In addition to fair-trade items from Ten Thousand Villages and She Has Hope Craft Shop will sell hand-crafted goods by girls and women recovering from lives of forced prostitution and human trafficking.

The Partners

Asia Society Texas Center
Asia Society Texas Center is part of a leading global educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. Across the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, Asia Society Texas Center provides insight, generates ideas, and promotes collaboration to connect Americans and Asians for a shared future. Website: AsiaSociety.org/Texas.

The Fowler Museum at UCLA
Part of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, the Fowler Museum at UCLA explores global arts and cultures with an emphasis on works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas—past and present. The Fowler enhances understanding and appreciation of the diverse peoples, cultures, and religions of the world through dynamic exhibitions, publications, and public programs, informed by interdisciplinary approaches and the perspectives of the cultures represented. Also featured is the work of international contemporary artists presented within the complex frameworks of politics, culture and social action. The Fowler provides exciting, informative, and thought-provoking exhibitions and events for the UCLA community and the people of greater Los Angeles and beyond. Website: Fowler.UCLA.edu.

The Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos
Founded in 2006, the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre is a museum in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. The Centre’s mission is to promote pride and appreciation for the cultures and knowledge of Laos’ diverse peoples, support ethnic communities to safeguard their tangible and intangible cultural heritage, and promote their sustainable livelihood development. It is the only independent non-profit museum and resource centre in the country dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of the traditional arts and lifestyles of the country’s many and diverse ethnic groups. Website: TAECLaos.org.

PhotoForward
PhotoForward arts and media programs were launched in 2005 to empower artists of all ages to share their own stories through photography, visual arts, community art, and digital media. PhotoForward works with partner organizations in New York, Cambodia, and Laos to develop sustainable programs that engage local populations in documenting their lives and celebrating their community’s history, while defining its future. Website: PhotoForward.org/Community-Researchers-Laos.html.

More information about the exhibitions, opening events, and ongoing programs can be found at AsiaSociety.org/Texas.

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Related Exhibition

Weavers' Stories

Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia,
Organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA
On view November 7, 2013 – February 9, 2014

Credits

Co-Organized by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos, and with the cooperation of PhotoForward

Exhibitions at Asia Society Texas Center are supported by United Airlines, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, and generous contributions from the Friends of Exhibitions group. Lead sponsors include Chinhui Juhn & Eddie Allen, Anne & Albert Chao, and Nancy C. Allen. Presenting sponsors include Glen Gondo/Sushic LLC and Dorothy Carsey Sumner. Underwriters include Karen and John Bradshaw Sr., Jereann Chaney, Dillon Kyle Architecture, and Judy & Scott Nyquist. Contributors include Jo & Jim Furr, Teri & Jeff Lee, Judith and Bruce E. Campbell Jr., Maggie and Bruce E. Campbell III, Monjula and Ravi S. Chidambaram, Judy and Robert Gerry, Bebe Woolley and Dan Gorski, Dr. Yang O. Hue, Sissy and Denny Kempner, Sushila and Dr. Ninan Mathew, Chong-Ok Matthews, Wade Mayberry, Tae and Young Park, Jae Y. Ro, Lillie Robertson, Louis H. Skidmore, Jr., with additional support from Susie and Sanford Criner, Lily and Charles Foster, Clare Attwell Glassell, Y. Ping Sun.

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