Thursday, August 20, 2015

Krysada Panusith Phounsiri's Photojournal: "My Grandfather's Untimely Passing"

This week Lao American artist Krysada Panusith Phounsiri demonstrates the power and potential of blogging with an intimate and poignant look at the death and funeral of his grandfather a year ago. This is a must read within our community.

On a personal note, as someone who's also spent well over 15 years attending Hmong and Lao funerals and documenting them to varying degrees, I'm going to say that this is not an easy thing for many to fully understand. There is often great uncertainty in terms of the cultural meaning and the rituals, the expectations, and the challenges for not only the younger generation but even our elders and adults across the US.

We don't often get to read something this intimate. I think his essay will provide an important example of how our traditions are different in different cities and regions of the US.

Krysada has provided a remarkably detailed look at his inner life and the funerary practices for both insiders and outsiders of our community. I've seen many say they intend to show his article to others so that they can understand more of what we're all looking at and participating in.

Of the many corrosive aspects of our post-colonial experience, the creation of a Lao disconnect from our roots and traditions, the lack of true intergenerational dialogues strikes me as one of the profound challenges we must continually strive to overcome if we are to remain a people. Essays like Krysada's are a step in the right direction for many reasons.

The images and narrative Krysada provides are particularly groundbreaking not only for their aesthetic quality. The perspective is rare as we're shown the Lao American funerary process told from the perspective of a young man from San Diego who took ordination vows as a Theravada Buddhist monk. We don't often get such a detailed account of the inner lives of young Lao men. We've rarely allowed them an opportunity to express themselves emotionally beyond the conventional narratives.

Krysada's journal here is deep, poignant and inspiring. I hope many of our young men come to recognize the importance of self-expression and introspection. I hope they see the vital need to share their thoughts with our community before we see our youth reduced to emotional and spiritual cartoons corrupted by toxic superficiality. 

There's much to consider here, and while I applaud Krysada's blog, I hope it will not come to be seen as the last word in our community on the subject. Rather, let it be an opening of the path for others to note, a call to observe this wondrous world we live in, to contemplate who we remember and love, who we honor, and who we share the journey with.

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