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August Issue 2006

Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC, Offers Exhibit About Cambodians in NC

Twenty-five years ago Cambodian families began arriving in North Carolina. Within a few years, Charlotte and Greensboro had become important centers for resettlement from that war-torn country. In 1983, the first Cambodian Buddhist temple in the South was founded in Charlotte. Today, the Cambodian American communities of the Carolinas are one generation - 25 years - old. And many want to share their stories with their neighbors.

"So we come to America, and we have nothing. We carry nothing with us from Cambodia. All that we have is ourselves and our culture What can we give back to America? What can we show Americans about us? Like try to teach that we're more than just refugees, or that we're more than just immigrants," said Ran Kong of Charlotte.

The new exhibit From Cambodia to Carolina: Tracing the Journeys of New Southerners at Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, tells these stories and explores the communities Cambodians have built in our region. The exhibit is on display through Nov. 27, 2006.

Barbara Lau of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, NC, has worked with Cambodians in Charlotte and Greensboro to create a vibrant exhibit tracing the history that shaped their journeys, and the new life they have created since arrival. From running for their lives to starting new ones in North Carolina, Cambodians have adapted traditions while passing on their heritage to younger generations born in the United States. The exhibit features artifacts, traditional costumes, photographs and personal stories of the journey, and considers the impact of Asian immigrants and cultures on the ever-changing New South. In addition, visitors will learn about the significance of their faith, the role of the temple, the origin and meaning of Buddha, as well as how religious holidays, traditions, and ceremonies have been adapted to be practiced in the New South.

Items and artifacts in the exhibit include: objects that survived the journey, such as a cooking pot, cloth and spoon which were the only belongings the Hai Math family was able to carry into the refugee camp; woodcarvings by master craftsman and Charlottean Sen Ny; a Buddhist alter, with objects on loan from the Greensboro Buddhist Center and the Charlotte Cambodian Cultural Center; and a Khmer language Bible and monk's robe.

The exhibit was originally created by the Greensboro Historical Museum, Inc., the City of Greensboro, and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Levine Museum of the New South adapted and expanded it to include stories of Charlotte's Khmer community. The Greensboro Buddhist Center and Cambodian Buddhist Center in Charlotte jointly collaborated on the project.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 704/333-1887 or (www.museumofthenewsouth.org).



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