PHILADELPHIA — In collaboration with the Delaware Valley branch of the national Vietnamese American community organization Boat People SOS, Philadelphia’s Asian Arts Initiative sheds light on a time of major transition for Vietnamese refugees who made their way to the United States after the Vietnam War. Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon: Vietnamese America Since 1975 is on view from April 6 to June 1.
Produced by the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Program and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and curated by Dr. Vu H. Pham, Exit Saigon recounts a journey more than three decades in the making. When the U.S. government opened its gates in 1975 to thousands of Vietnamese, these immigrants — known as “boat people” — faced the idea of permanent resettlement with a mix of survivors’ guilt and overwhelming relief. Exit Saigon tells the story of adapting to life in the United States where, amid the struggle for equality and acceptance, Vietnamese-Americans have maintained their linguistic, cultural and religious traditions.
Images of overcrowded refugee camps across the Pacific Rim provide a visual starting point for the exhibition, conveying the profound sense of displacement experienced by war-weary people en route to the United States. Exit Saigon includes compelling images of the fall of Saigon, the exodus of the boat people and temporary refugee camps in the U.S. Colorful contemporary photographs record the Vietnamese-American community honoring their own cultural heritage while embracing uniquely American traditions.
In keeping with Asian Arts Initiative’s mission to tell the stories of Asian-Americans and their diverse communities, Exit Saigon focuses on the perspectives of people who were forced to flee their homes and leave their possessions behind. The exhibition does not focus on tragedy but, instead, reveals the strength and stamina of Vietnamese-Americans who have found new homes in a new land. This is a story about people who have adapted to life in the United States while maintaining their traditional folkways. A celebration of cultural diversity, Exit Saigon explores civic and political issues as well as the intergenerational tensions experienced by families as they negotiate new lives in a new country.
Schedule of Events
Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon: Vietnamese America since 1975
On view April 6–June 1, 2012
Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 6 p.m.
First Friday Open House: Friday, May 4, 6 p.m.
Closing Reception: Friday, June 1, 6 p.m.
Featuring the program Exploring Vietnamese History through Music and Poetry, hosted in partnership with the Philadelphia Vietnamese Cultural Association
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Gallery hours: Tuesday-Friday, noon-6 p.m.
About Boat People SOS–Delaware Valley
BPSOS–Delaware Valley is the local, community-based branch of a national Vietnamese-American nonprofit organization with a 32-year track record of service, advocacy and community organizing. Since launching in 2001, BPSOS’ Delaware Valley branch has encompassed two offices in Philadelphia and South Jersey which respond to the multifaceted needs of more than 24,000 Vietnamese-Americans in Philadelphia, Camden and Burlington counties. BPSOS’ mission is to empower, organize and equip Vietnamese individuals and communities in their pursuit of liberty and dignity. Learn more at www.bpsos.org.