Ma Yang tells stories of Hmong life then and now, there and here


On Friday, July 17, at Homewood Studios in North Minneapolis, Ma Yang, a Hmong elder and storyteller, told stories to an mixed audience of 15 people spanning races and generations. Curators Beverly and George Roberts hosted as if the gallery was their home and the audience members were their neighbors.

Yang is the mother of “Sai the Funny Guy”, a Hmong comedian in the Twin Cities. Yang herself seemed at ease in front of an audience. With an interpreter translating, she told two stories of her ancestors and one from a dream. Yang prefers, however, to tell stories of her life in America today.

The stage backdrop was a quilt-sized textile depicting the first story of the evening. With her children translating Yang’s story into English, the whole story had been embroidered into English words and pictures of village life. Yang’s stories told of marriage problems and times of war. After her presentation, others from the audience were encouraged to tell their stories. Seven other people told stories.

Dyan Garvey from Hmong Arts Connection was Yang’s translator. “Storytelling entertains, teaches family values, preserves Hmong history as told by the Hmong people themselves, and creates membership into a community,” said Garvey.

Presently, the gallery houses a display of seven Hmong artists who are exploring themes of identity in an American cultural setting. The art is modern, differing from their elders’ traditional textiles.

Upcoming events associated with the Homewood exhibit include a story cloth workshop on Saturday, July 25 at the Northside Arts Crawl at Penn and Broadway. Also, Patch Xiong reads from his novel Dead Promise on Friday, July 31 at the Homewood Gallery.

Jeanette Fordyce contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.

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