is a multi-faceted storytelling program comprised of
community interviews, public readings, educational workshops, online
media, and new creative writing by Asian American poets.
In the "kavad," a three-dimensional form of traditional Indian storytelling, a box unfolds to reveal the secrets of a particular story. We have chosen "kavad" as the central metaphor for this program as we partner across communities and generations of Asian Americans in the telling of a collective Asian American story.
Past Kavad Projects:
Kavad is the only program of its kind in the country and is of particular significance in that it not only employs ethnological modes of preserving Asian American history but also helps to re-create and re-invigorate our communities through creative work and community dialogue. Through Kavad, Kundiman brings forward the poet as witness, historian, and social activist.
Mother Tongues, May 2014
We never talked about it. Since she escaped the communist regime in Vietnam, my mother resolved to leave her past behind. Any question about the war, the refugee camp, or the Saigon gangster that had been my father met unshakable silence. Con oi, du roi. Me dien cai dau. All I knew of my family’s history came from library books, neighborhood gossip, or the long-distance calls my mother made across the Pacific while I pretended to sleep. Living without a history denied all possibilities for “existence.” And though she determined to protect me from what the telling revealed, I could not reconcile her trauma with the desire to understand where we came from, how we got here, or what unspeakable violence demanded we live in fear of that knowledge.
-- Paul Tran, Kundiman fellow
Mother Tongues recovers diasporic narratives by chronicling the lives and experiences of mothers across three Asian American generations. Interviews, poetry and performances will combine to form an archive that will document the triumphs and challenges of building lives in America. Three first generation Asian American creative writers will interview their mothers on their immigrant experiences. The poets will respond to these interviews by writing a poem.
These poets will then teach free combination oral history/creative writing/documentary filmmaking workshops to Asian American youth. This group of Asian American youth will conduct interviews with their mothers and write poems in response to these interviews. There will be a culminating reading at Fordham University, Lincoln Center showcasing portions of recorded interviews and creative work, in addition to an online archive housed on the Kundiman website.
Melissa Reburiano is a poet and a doctoral student in Applied Anthropology at Columbia University. An Arthur Zankel Fellow, Ms. Reburiano's research examines race/ethnicity, gender, and social formation in emerging digital geographies. She has presented her research at conferences nationwide and has served as a teaching fellow at The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Columbia University. A longtime educator, Ms. Reburiano has devised and facilitated college-preparatory curriculum for The Harlem Children's Zone and has most recently worked with the Asian American Writers Workshop to offer the organization's first workshop using strategies of improvisational acting to teach elements of the creative process.