Student org embraces Hmong culture

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Student org embraces Hmong culture

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April 8, 2015
By Kimberly Wethal

A dance recital, moral-based skits and a fashion show could all be found in the Hamilton Room in the University Center last Thursday, thanks to the Southeast Asian Organization.

The Southeast Asian Organization (SAO) put on their annual SAO Cultural Show starting at 4 p.m. on April 2 for a crowd of 75 people, as they taught audience members about elements of Hmong culture.

SAO co-president and senior Ger Xiong found a personal connection to the Cultural Show through planning and researching the show.

“I obviously came from a Hmong background, and I grew up in a mostly Caucasian background, so I never really learned about my own culture,” Xiong said. “By doing the culture show, I learn about my own culture and while researching, I can learn about what my family grew up in.”

The show embraced Hmong culture by starting off with a traditional dance performed by a dozen SAO members, and ended with a fashion show of traditional clothing. The fashion show displayed black, white, green, striped and modern Hmong outfits along with fancy Thai dresses, and showcased jewelry pieces made by UW-Whitewater students.

“A lot of us have the traditional clothing at home, so that’s why we hold the fashion show,” Xiong said. “A lot of the culture is to show off your clothing and your jewelry, and because we can’t speak Hmong to the non-Hmong students, we show off our clothing.”

The Cultural Show also included the singing of a love song from Hmong culture by two students, and skits that displayed morals such as trusting your own instinct, respect for others and patience.

Junior Surana Moua, SAO’s other co-president, found a strong connection to the Cultural Show through the skits.
“It’s the morals that we learn at home, and [having the audience] see how the morals were actually modeled in the skits and how they were played out,” she said.

Moua also views the Cultural Show as the kick-off to Asian Awareness Month, which Xiong said takes a full year to plan. The Cultural Show, on the other hand, takes between one to two semesters to plan, and allows the members to have more of a say in what they want to present at the show.

“Just for Asian Month, it takes a year, so while we’re in this year right now, we’re already planning for next year,” Xiong said. “We plan what we want to do for the Culture Show, whether it’s skits, or the fashion show; it can be anything we want.”

For both Moua and Xiong, the Cultural Show and Asian Awareness Month are important to promote diversity on campus, and serves as an outlet for people to learn about what other cultures are doing.

“I know there’s not a lot of Hmong students on campus, there’s less than 60 of us, so we want to promote SAO so the Southeast Asian students on campus [so they] know we’re here and representing our culture,” Xiong said.

SAO meets 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays in the Center of the Arts Kachel Dance Studio, and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in UC 60.