The Xia Gallery & Cafe in Little Mekong, St. Paul, Minnesota, recently opened an exhibit that displays a number of artworks from Myanmar artists.
Window to the Soul: A Myanmar Group Exhibit features 31 Myanmar artists, specifically ethnic minorities such as the Karen, Karenni and Pa’O. According to the organizers, this is the largest collection of Myanmar artwork in the US.
“This showing is sharing about the beauty of Burma,” Karen artist and gallery curator Saw Kennedy told MPR News. “… Every painting tells about every artist’s imagination, feelings, and creations. That’s what we’d like to share with the international communities.”
The Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) in St. Paul first opened the gallery in October this year, a collaboration between Asian small business-owners, activists and community leaders. Their first exhibit featured Hmong artwork.
In partnership with the Indiana-based group of Myanmar artists called U&I, Hmong AEDA artistic coordinator Npaus Baim Her connected with Kennedy, a lead organizer for the group. Originally at The Urban Village, a Karen and Karenni artist collective in St. Paul, they moved the artwork to the exhibit in the Xia Gallery.
“I feel like we have the same goals where we want to connect our communities together,” Her told MPR News. “Both the Karen and Hmong communities share a similar history of being forced to flee from our home country, and being refugees migrating to Minnesota.”
According to the Karen Organization of Minnesota, there are more than 20,000 Karen in Minnesota, the largest in the country. They also state that Minnesota is home to more than 2,000 refugees from other Burmese ethnic groups including Karenni and Mon.
“Our artwork speaks volumes showcasing what it’s like going through war, and using art to show the love for our culture, or what our past used to look like in our home country, and showing what our American life looks like now,” Her said. “So we’re able to connect on that level, and I’m glad he’s bringing all that artwork here so we can see it in a Karen and Karenni lens.”
The exhibit is open until February 2023.
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