New flair coming to Hmong fest

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If you're going to the Hmong Arts and Music Festival this weekend, look for some fancy footwork from a group called the Rhinos.

Ten students who have been working during the summer with Augsburg College senior Pa Dao Yang will get the chance to perform dance and spoken-word poetry, as well as exhibit their creative writing and paj ntaub, or story cloths.

Yang, of Brooklyn Park, a recipient of a scholarship from the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation that includes funding for community work over the summer, organized the group to help Hmong middle-schoolers express themselves through art.

She brought in artists from four disciplines — sewing, creative writing, spoken-word poetry and traditional Hmong dance/hip-hop — to work with students at New Millennium Academy in Minneapolis, a K-8 charter school that enrolls mostly Hmong students.

The school's mascot is the rhino, said seventh-grader Yi Leng Vang, and he made the animal a centerpiece of his paj ntaub, which he said was meant to show his love for his school.

Eighth-grader Ava Khang's paj ntaub includes stairs, a star, a pencil to symbolize education and a dollar sign representing a good job.

"You have to take certain steps to reach a part of life that you want to get to," Ava said. The cloth — cross-stitched with colored thread on black fabric — is "basically saying I want to reach my goal."

Ava said she's not nervous about showing off her dancing this weekend.

"We're basically done with all the moves and steps and stuff," she said. "I'm excited."
Doug Belden can be reached at 651-228-5136.


What: Ninth annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival

When: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Western Sculpture Park, Marion Street between I-94 and University Avenue in St. Paul.


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