April is always a crazy month. Why? Because on top of my daily work, dance, and travel grind, Lao New Year takes place every weekend!
If you don't know, the majority of Southeast Asian Countries (mainland not island) celebrate the same New Year. This includes but is not exclusive to Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and parts of other surrounding countries. Many know the term of New Years as Songkran which is what Thailand calls it. The official beginning and ending of our New Years was April 13th and April 15th respectively. In Laos, it's a 5-Day National Holiday.
In America, it's a month worth of New Years activity. Celebrations every weekend generally include a parade, dance performances, music performances, and Theravada Buddhist ceremonies.
I had the opportunity to photograph a few of the festivities in between MC-ing and performing at the same event. As packed as my schedule was, I had my camera with me. I was able to shoot the parade at one of San Diego's main Lao Temples, Wat Lao Buddharam, along with a Lue New Years event at night. (Lue is an ethnicity of Laos, which has over 40). I was also able to photograph the parade in Saginaw, Texas, at Wat Lao Thepnimith. Saginaw's New Year event is known to be the biggest in the states. It was my first time out there. There was a compelling desire to see the parallels between the two cities along with documenting the people, place, and the soul of the celebrations. What made me happy was to see people happy; they truly shined through the lens and gave me their unfiltered joy. Loved feeling that. Colorful amount of people and quite welcoming.
Check out each event, which has a unique but all encompassing story to share.
Lao New Year - Wat Lao Buddharam - San Diego, CA
Lue New Year - Ly's Garden - San Diego, CA
Lao New Year - Wat Lao Thepnimith
For some, there is purpose in preserving tradition and grasping history to identify who we are. For others, there is a drive to push, move on, and assimilate into mainstream American culture as this is now their only home; raising families and a new generation . For many refugees who've gone through war and escaped Laos to get here, it pains them to think about the past in that sense, so culture is what keeps many anchored in their identity. I feel that culture is a living, breathing concept. We live, and collectively, culture represents us as an organism that must adapt to current conditions. Its foundation rests in what has been rooted for hundreds of years, but years in our current atmosphere can and must contribute to our culture. This is why I feel it's my duty to capture these moments and the people who live them. Snapping the present while being present motivates me to do this. I am also interested in what we can create in writing, art, and the world of science. Many beautiful developments are happening in Lao America, sharing this is important to me.
Hope you enjoyed looking at the photos!
Till next time,