Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Khao Khat: inherited thirst, breath, guilt, desire.

khao khát

Photo by Peter Duong, 2011.
Hi Nat.!
Attached is the picture of a "Girl drinking water". Its title is "Khao khat" means "Thirsty",
but it has another meaning "Nostalgia", a homesick feeling for the old Vietnamese people living outside of Vietnam.
Miss you
I love you.

Ong Noi.

I recently wrote a poem in response to my performance piece on Agent Orange, that started with I wake in the wake of my grandfather's inhale. At the time, I was writing from a fictional standpoint that did not necessarily implicate my own grandfather, though somehow I believed that I inherited the Vietnam War, just as other young Vietnamese Americans have.

Then, in a moment of pure aesthetic serendipity, I found a perfect piece of inspiration while viewing my grandfather's photographs during my recent trip back to California. It was sprawled out there on his carpet, a color image printed on a canvas scroll. The picture above, titled Khao Khat, is my grandfather's depiction of the idiom. Some online dictionary definitions as well as my grandfather's explanation are listed above.

This notion, Khao Khat, represents my connection to the war, to this project, and to my family on many levels. I believe there is a shared continued thirst for closure after 36 years of healing, a shared breath in the wake of a country rebuilding its image, infrastructure, and landscape, a shared guilt felt from an inability to stop previous violence, and a shared desire to move forward in some meaningful way. While my grandfather is nostalgic for a country he used to know, I am nostalgic for a country I never knew. I only imagined it in the empty lots between the tin roof shacks and granite Mercedes dealerships in Ho Chi Minh City, in the empty spaces between the narratives of boat people and the newspaper images of American GIs.

This project was started as a selfish solution to an idea that lived in my body and refused to go away. It has turned into something much greater than myself. I have not inherited dioxin in my blood, but I carry it in my bloodlines.

The piece directly reflects this idea: Khao Khat: To be gasping for...

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