Hip-hop and break-dancing might not be the first activities people associate with Hmong culture but after this weekend perhaps they will be. The two art forms are strong in the Hmong youth population as media that can connect across cultures, distance and language barriers. That connection is critical to the Hmong, an ethnic group of mountainous people from China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Facing persecution at home after the Laotian Civil War, many of the Hmong resettled in the United States and other Western countries.
Minnesota's Hmong population is second only to California in number and St. Paul is said to have the largest urban Hmong population in the world. Roughly 28,600 Hmong lived in the city according to the 2010 census, a number regarded by some as a conservative estimate. Exact numbers aside, Hmong culture will be displayed in full force at Status Update, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent's 10th Annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival.
While few are unaware of the metropolitan area's large Hmong population, too few are aware of the historical context and contemporary art movements within Hmong culture. Status Update offers a chance for the Hmong to update fellow Twin Citians on the richness abundant in their arts and culture. It also stands as a chance to bring together Hmong artists and culture connoisseurs from across the country in celebration of a common bond.
Interested? Update your own status to "attending" between 11 am to 8 pm tomorrow (Saturday) in the Western Sculpture Park across from the Sears building in downtown St. Paul. Local hip-hop artists Pupils of the Storm will perform; the festival also promises films, fashion and food.
Sunday will bring another family-friendly festival for the culturally inclined. More on that later as I'm off to work!