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APIC Spokane Hosts ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ Exhibit Closing Ceremony

By detailing the experience of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians in America, harmful experiences around questions such as “What are you?” encompass the day-to-day difficulties of being a minority in America.

“When we think of the people in our community, we don’t actually hear these stories about who we really are,” said Ryann Louie, director of APIC Spokane, an advocacy group for Asians, Pacific Islanders and Hawaiians. indigenous people in the region. “There are just very limited ways people have engaged with our community to build relationships.”

In partnership with Terrain, APIC Spokane’s “Hidden in Plain Sight” exhibit examines the stress of racism on identities, and on May 27, a closing ceremony and panel discussion provided clearer context surrounding identity. within the Asian diaspora.

The first exhibition in Terrain’s new gallery on North Monroe Street coincided with National Heritage Month celebrating Asians, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

The gallery featured works by artists Remelisa Cullitan, Frances Grace Mortel and Margaret Albaugh.

Cullitan’s work focuses on their experience as Filipino Americans, with self-portraits dressed in traditional clothing, then cap and gown at their graduation ceremony from Eastern Washington University.

Mortel’s work spanned a variety of mediums, including a short documentary titled “Nayna”, which showed his appreciation for his grandmother and how she passed on Filipino culture to him.

“Often I remember you, grandma, and your hands, hoping that their resilience is also in mine,” Mortel recounted in the short.

Alongside this tribute, “Diaspora Recipes”, another short film produced by Mortel, tackled the cultural aspect of food within the Asian diaspora.

Filipino baker Joan Pascua and self-taught Indian chef Noreen Hiskey have discussed food as a bridge since living in Spokane. Throughout the documentary, Mortel perfectly captured the chef’s authentic experience, as Pascua spoke both Tagalog and English.

Hiskey shared how she educates food connoisseurs at Feast Kitchen, a restaurant where she cooks, introducing regional Indian cuisines, and her appreciation of the family she has formed with other chefs from around the world.

“I really, really like working in a building that’s home to immigrants and chefs and going into the building and working there with a different person,” Hiskey said. “I couldn’t have been more grateful to a company that is willing to rent their space to me but also holds the values ​​and morals that I do.”

“What Are You” was a handwritten project that featured common racist questions towards Asian communities. Racist jokes about COVID-19, noises mocking languages ​​and dialects, and sexual harassment against Asian women were featured throughout the book. It also included a screenshot of Facebook demanding that former President Donald Trump remove the “China virus” or any other iteration of his presidential speeches.

Albaugh’s “Indivisible” project captured people from across the Asian diaspora who live in Spokane, using portraits with mini-reports about their identity struggles and how racism has shaped their lives.

“’Indivisible’ began as an exploration of the nuances of racism. It can manifest itself in several ways: microaggressions, gaslighting, intimidation. But as the project evolved, I realized how racism influenced development and realized that this project was as much about identity formation as it was about racism,” Albaugh wrote in a statement. of project.

Tiffany, a Chinese woman, explained how dating easily becomes a quest for whiteness and the privilege associated with it in America.

“…I was like, ‘Oh, you landed on a white guy! Oh, you’re better! You came out outside our culture, you transcended our culture… you did better,” she said. “But now I don’t think about that anymore.”

Ben Cabildo, a Filipino elder and entrepreneur, said he found his identity through activism and community building. Coming to America in the 1960s, he recognized the racism in his environment, even after serving in the Vietnam War.

Ordinary people were also featured in the ‘I Am’ exhibit, with two younger sisters, Janie and Elliotte, discussing their young struggles with identity tension. Elliotte recalls Janie coming home from school devastated by children teasing their family’s char siu bao, a pork-stuffed Cantonese bun she’d brought for lunch. Janie also talks about the experience, innocently holding her favorite chicken while discussing the harmful experience.

Rowena, an older member of Albaugh’s project, explained how the consequences of immigration alter parent-child dynamics. She recalls the shifting power dynamics with her father as she left her middle and high school English classes to translate materials into Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. Rowena called herself a member of “Generation 1.5”, those who are born in the country of origin and then emigrate to Western countries.

Food is one of the most popular aspects within the Asian diaspora.

The panel discussion deepened the exhibition’s look at the relationship with food and how, in most cases, elders scolding children in the name of body image can lead to a complicated relationship with food.

Cullitan painted a portrait of a wandering person in an open kitchen space in a black one-piece bathing suit, a metaphor for body image, eating habits and one’s tension with the close ties to food in Asian cultures. .

“I can’t help but think about this back and forth of ‘Oh you gotta eat, here’s another plate of food’ and then turn around and say ‘You probably shouldn’t eat that much, you win a little weight,” Cullitan said. “So maybe I don’t have a good relationship with food and now there’s this weird discussion between magnet food, but also having to conform to look a certain way.

Along with the artists, Jade Faletoi served as a special guest and discussed her identity from the perspective of a Samoan woman on the panel. Faletoi’s perspective helped participants understand how Samoan Americans are affected by the current American colonization of their island.

“American Samoa could get better food, fresher and cheaper food from the surrounding island nations, but because of the (US import) law…we have to wait for the food to come from the US and as she’s from the United States, it’s not good food for us,” she said. “…It causes a lot of problems in things like diabetes rates. Those things are pretty high for us because of the types of food we get.

The panel also discussed their journey to healing and reclaiming their identity, including the inspirations for their work and how they are building community in Spokane.

“You hear things like, ‘Just be nice to each other, that’s fine,’ and I lived in Oklahoma and there were a lot of really nice people there but they would never vote for anything for me. “, said Albaugh. . “There’s this understanding that needs to happen about how to really address racism, and I think these projects were the first steps for me to explore that.”