Overseas, the Ka'Ren have been waging a decades long war for liberation against the Burmese military junta’s violent and genocidal persecution. The working title of this series refers to the concept of Kawthoolei or the endonym for an autonomous nation that the Ka'Ren have sought to establish in Myanmar. It also speaks to what I feel is the community’s profound desire for visibility and agency within the United States.
This series continues my engagement with the daily lives and histories of emerging Asian and Pacific Islander communities, often specific ethnic groups that experienced forced migration- the marginalized within the margins. What I am doing differently from years and projects past is more deeply weaving the concept of locality and diasporic experience visually.
As such, these pictures are inkjet prints on Philippine gampi paper (a nod to my own heritage) overlaid on Northeastern Ohio Milkweed paper. Both types of paper were handmade by Allie Morris of the Morgan Conservatory in the neighboring city of Cleveland. The Milkweed paper was grown in their garden.
There are larger Ka'Ren communities across the United States. However, my connection to them would not have the same personal stake. There is something shared between the community and myself in this notion of Northeast Ohio as a second home. This place is one of new roots and memories for me as well.
Being out here, speaking with community members, and thinking about the fraught category of "Asian American", obfuscation appears closer to what's on the ground.
On a very pragmatic level, it is a struggle financially and logistically to simply find a space to exist as a cultural entity.
Above all, my aim was to share Ka'Ren history and Ka'Ren American experiences in the present as a point of convergence and divergence. My hope is that the audience finds both connection and idiosyncrasy in my portrayal of this burgeoning community.
Lastly, my profound gratitude to Ajino Wah, the Chairman of the "Ka'Ren Community of Akron", for opening up the community to me over the years. His kindness, patience, and hospitality made this all possible.