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Vietnam to Austin—a Cultural Journey

Written by , published March 27, 2009

Last weekend a friend and I attended the opening of Vietnam to Austin: Restoring Community, the first Asian-Amercian exhibit at the Austin History Center. The exhibit, with the help of the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation, documents the struggles and accomplishments of Austin's largest Asian community, and their contributions as Americans.

My friend and her family were among the Boat People who came to the US in 1975 after Vietnam fell under Communist rule, and she was especially touched by the documents, photos and accounts from other Vietnamese during this period and afterward. One visually-fascinating and beautiful display is of the art of Tien Nguyen. While in prison after the fall of Saigon (Nguyen was a captain in the army and was sentenced as part of his re-education), he laboriously painted and etched figures and landscapes onto grains of rice, using a found magnifying glass and whatever tools he could scavenge. One particularly striking image is of a group of galloping horses, all onto one grain of rice. The exhibit is free and on view until July 17.

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