Artist honors Hmong history

Kylie Balk-Yaatenen, Staff Writer

Cia Siab’s exhibit “The Battlefields of Memory” in the Annex Art Gallery explores hope through the artifacts, objects and stories of Hmong people’s lived experience of war and the dysphoria of living in America.

Courtesy of Kylie Balk-Yaatenen / Advance-Titan
“The Battlefields of Memory,” a new exhibit in the Annex Art Gallery, explores hope through the artifacts, objects and stories of Hmong people’s lived experience of war and living in America.

Mai See Thao, the director of the Hmong Studies department, partnered with Cia Siab Inc., the Hmong community and the Wisconsin Historical Society to bring the exhibit to UWO as part of Asian heritage month.

Thao said in a video on the UWO website that the exhibit is made to make attendees think about historical trauma and how the war affected small communities like the Hmong people and how it still affects them to this day.

Thao said that the exhibit came at a perfect time due to what has been going on with the racial violence towards Asian Americans.

“The exhibit shows that this kind of anti-Asian violence itself has actually been a part of a longer history in the US, which has been deeply shaped with how the US engages in their military interventions,” she said.

“This exhibit hopes to kind of bring audience members to bear witness to the humanity of survivors but also to question the humanity of the perpetrators,” she said. “To question our obligation to one another in this space.”

In the entryway of the exhibit is a bed and side tables. According to the Cia Siab’s website, this is to show the private intimate spaces of memory.

Then the exhibit displays artifacts of Hmong people’s time in the refugee camps, a space of healing. The exhibit also shows the traditions of family, specifically focusing on women’s role, with the Hmong word “Niam” meaning “mom.”

According to their website, Cia Siab is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and hope for both young and old Hmong people.

The gallery is located on the second floor of the Arts and Communications building, and it will be open until April 25.

For more information about Cia Siab, check out their website and Facebook page and

For more information about what events UWO is doing for Asian Heritage month check out their website