IBé and May Lee-Yang win Midwestern Voices and Visions Awards to fund new work


Two Twin Cities literary performers, May Lee-Yang and Ibrahima Kaba, were recently selected from 100 applicants from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin to receive Midwestern Voices and Visions Awards. “In all there were seven Midwestern artists of color chosen for their compelling vision that will define the region and the country in the next decades.” wrote Caitlin Strokosch, executive director of sponsoring organization Alliance of Artist Communities, in an e-mail.

The Joyce Foundation funds Midwestern Voices and Visions Award and the Alliance of Artist Communities coordinates the seven artists’ residencies in the Midwest. Chosen artists fall into visual, literary, and performance disciplines.

The Midwestern Voices and Visions Awards provide the two artists with a one-month residency and $4,000 unrestricted grant. The artist’s residency experience at host programs will be featured in a publication, and then they are invited to participate in a group exhibition in Chicago in the fall of 2011.

“I never thought that I’d be in theater but now it definitely is my future. It is exciting and a privilege to tell my story,” says May Lee-Yang, who has been performing plays for the past four years in the Twin Cities. “I am fortunate. I never work alone. Even though my performances are solo I am surrounded with a community of artists. My works are memoirs, a creative non-fiction, about women’s issues and my Hmong identity.” Her residency will be at the Art Farm in Marquette, Nebraska; in June, she hopes.

Lee-Yang will curate The Madness, 10-minute works-in-progress by emerging playwrights of color, at the Playwrights’ Center on February 23 at 7:30 p.m. It is a monthly free event, and the public is welcome. In May she will perform in Anchorage, Alaska at Out North Theatre, presenting her piece Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman.

Thoughtful poet

Ibrahima Kaba, an immigrant from Guinea, West Africa, has been writing for ten years and performs spoken word; he is popularly known as IBé. His residency will be at the Anderson Center in Red Wing starting in July. “My thesis for my residency is Africans in America,” he says. “I want to bring the story or question of Africans, a people, living in a particular place, America.” Kaba’s topics include immigrants, being away from home, no home, and home as peace.

“I didn’t like traditional poetry at the beginning,” says Kaba. His poems, he explains, “are short stories about myself. I want a dialogue with my audiences. How does what I write affect you? We all need to talk with one another. I especially like venues like the University of Minnesota or banquets. After my residency I’d like to tour colleges with my poetry.”

Two of Kaba’s upcoming performances are at the Black Dog Café on March 5, and at Inver Hills College on March 25. For a sampling of his poetry, see atlanticrock.com.