Art to Narrate the Trauma of Vietnamese Refugees

Art to Narrate the Trauma of Vietnamese Refugees

Sophia Law, Associate Professor of the Department of Visual Studies at Lingnan University, at Asia Society Hong Kong on June 25, 2014. (Asia Society Hong Kong Center)

HONG KONG, June 25, 2014 — Sophia Law, Associate Professor of the Department of Visual Studies at Lingnan University, believes that art has a great impact on the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole. In her research project in 2007, she focused on the artwork made by the Vietnamese refugees as the means of expressing their feelings. According to Sophia, art serves as the narration of trauma. As people who went through traumas tend to avoid the memory, art is their salvation that they can let go the daunting experience through visual expression. To the Vietnamese refugees, their lives are deeply scarred with the loss of identity and freedom, long years of endless waiting, and the threats of repatriation. In the detention camps, art became their emotional liberation.

The styles and forms of the refugees' iconic artwork reflect their states of mind. In Freedom, Sea and Death, the sharp color tone ironically shows the pain of the loss of freedom of the painter, who later committed suicide in the camp. Whitehead Sunset explicitly showed the strong agony of the artist and other refugees. In Two Women Waiting, the excruciating despair of endless waiting is depicted with the use of bold lines and dull facial expressions of the characters. The collection of artwork unveils the traumatic experiences of the Vietnamese refugees, and marks an unforgettable chapter of the history of Hong Kong.

Video: Watch the complete program (1 hr., 16 min.)

June 25, 2014
by Peryl Tse