- Can you give us a brief Bio of yourself?
Performance artist, writer and global agitator, Anida Yoeu Ali is a first generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago. Her interdisciplinary performances use Butoh to examine the poetic potential of the body and collective healing. Her performance work transforms loss into conversations about reconciliation. Since 1998, Anida has toured over 300 colleges and venues with the spoken word ensemble, I Was Born With Two Tongues, and the multimedia collective Mango Tribe. The Tongues' pioneering live performances and critically-acclaimed debut CD, "Broken Speak", ignited a new generation of Asian American voices. She is also a founding member of Young Asians With Power!, Asian American Artists Collective-Chicago, the National APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit, and MONSOON fine arts journal. Her artistic work has been the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts and Illinois Arts Council. From Copenhagen to Ho Chi Minh City, Anida lectures, exhibits and performs internationally. For more insights, please visit www.atomicshogun.com.
- How is it like being a first generation Muslim Khmer woman raised in Chicago ?
It’s complex and makes for good writings.
- You have toured over 300 colleges and venues with the panAsian spoken word ensemble ‘I Was Born With Two Tongues’, what was your most memorable moments?
The most memorable moment was when 2Tongues toured with Chicago hip hop crew, The PACIFICS, to Pomona College as part of the YellowTechnicolor Tour. It was amazing because we had this incredibly enthusiastic crowd for our show, perhaps the largest crowd I’d ever perform in front – 300 people or so. They gave us so much love. I remember how nervous I was touring in general because we were premiering new pieces and also because I was the only woman, besides our manager, on the tour. But it was all good ‘cuz every time I took to the stage – it was fine, I held my own ground and rocked the mic each time. The entire tour brought the 2 groups closer and made for unforgettable moments, drama, and inside jokes! I loved it but I’ll never tour with 8 men again!
- We love your critically-acclaimed debut CD, "Broken Speak". Can you tell us a how did that come about and how it effects you as an artist after the release? I mean some people get all big headed,. but you are very humble that what make you stand out among the many others.
‘Broken Speak’ was created because our fans demanded it. The album was a gift to them and an acknowledgment of the importance to document this particular moment in the Asian American Movement. Initial funding for the CD came directly from our fan-base and a small grant we received from the Illinois Arts Council. When we decided to make the album, we had no money so we wrote letters and emails to our fan asking for their support. Slowly envelopes with checks and cash came in from all different parts of the country. We worked really hard on the album—long hours, intense self-criticism & feedback sessions, and no one got paid. We recorded in our friend’s dining room. He donated his time as producer and sound engineer. We later paid him a percentage of the small profit we made from the sale of the first-run of the album. I designed the album’s jacket and disc design. It was all a labor of love and I think this shows. I am very proud of our work on the album. I don’t have a big head about anything I do because everything is fleeting. Moments come and go. As an artist, you just have to live in the moment and put your best work out there – all the time. I don’t like compromising or apologizing for my work.
-Can you give us an update on Young Asians With Power!, Asian American Artists Collective-Chicago; the National APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit; and the MONSOON fine arts journal since you are the co-founder of all these important organizations.
How about I just send you to their websites for more info:
YAWP! - http://www.thecollectivechicago.org/yawp/
National APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit- http://apiasummit.com/
The Asian American Artists Collective-Chicago - http://thecollectivechicago.org/
Note: I’m not sure if MONSOON is still in circulation because that was something we started in College at the University of Illinois.
- How do one goes about chasing or seek grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts? We mention this because you receive all three. That is major !
It only sounds major when you list them like that without explaining the back story and how many hoops one leaps through to get them. Also, I didn’t always receive those grants directly. The Rockefeller Foundation funded the work of Mango Tribe’s “Sisters in the Smoke” through the Multi-arts Production fund which we received through the Guild Complex of Chicago. The Ford Foundation has always been super supportive of my work – they funded a grant to serve the Mekong region called the Suitcase Fund which I applied for through Dance Theater Workshop. They also supported a critical trip I was invited on for the Asian Women Directors Festival in New Delhi in 2002. The NEA actually supported the work of Henry Street Settlement, which supported Mango Tribe’s second production, “The Creation Myth Project”. See…it’s all about finagling.
- We heard you will be given a tribute by the Foundation of Asian American Independent Media for your work in the Chicago Asian American community. What are your words for the younger generation that look up to you as their role model ?
Yes I am deeply honored by this tribute celebration. For the youngens – I say don’t be afraid to show your best self, to reach your fullest potential – I think so many young people get caught up with what others will think of them or how their parents will view them or get caught up in the mindgame of what the system and market tells them they should be like. Don’t shy away from how brilliant you are and the kind of future you can potentially have! You just have to want to work for it. And yeah – it takes a lot of work but you won’t be doing it alone. You are never alone. There will always be people around to help you. You have to know how to ask for the help and you have to be willing to put yourself out there.
- We congratulate you on the new edition to your family. A baby girl ! How is the family life and how are you handling family with work?
You forgot to mention that I am also in graduate school. It’s really a lot to balance and I do not recommend anyone do this. It’s a pretty tough load and it takes a certain kind of breed to be able to multi-task in this extreme manner. I feel very fragmented with my time and it’s just hard to focus because time is very limited. My partner/husband is awesome though – deeply supportive and we are equal partners in providing care to our daughter.
- What do you do to relax your mind?
I like to veg out on my couch to the following: Braindead netflix rentals, watch trashy ABC soap operas, anything on Syfy channel, and/or flip thru gossip magazines or fashion magazines. Seriously getting a good dose of pop culture keeps me sane.
- What are your current project?
What am I not working on!!! I am working on a huge multi-faceted project called the 1700% Project which is an act of intervention against the racial profiling and acts of violence against Muslims. You can find out more about the project here:
I am also in the middle of my “Fashion is Dead” project which is essentially my “buy nothing year” in terms of anything related to fashion or the fashion industry. This has actually saved me a lot of money ‘cuz I don’t buy any new clothes, shoes, no haircuts/coloring/waxing/threading, no fashion magazines, no make-up, etc. I am not allowing myself to buy anything fashion related – I am only allowed to use what I have although I can exchange it. My goal is to actually get rid of everything I own in my closet by the end of the year.
And of course I am touring with spoken word performances in different cities. Next up is Minneapolis. You can check my website (www.atomicshogun.com) for the latest calendar of events. Now that I’m emerging from graduate school, I will be booking more shows at colleges/universities, community centers and theaters/galleries. Look out world!
- The current economy is affecting everyone, how is it affecting you?
I am also a graphic designer and my industry was hit pretty hard. I was on unemployment for 6 months. I’m not on it anymore because business is just picking up. Money is tight and everyone wants it. The credit card and mortgage companies are sharks and don’t want to cut any sort of deals. It’s pretty tough. And no one wants to pay artists on top of that.
- What type of music do you listen to?
Would you believe it’s all been about my daughter and music for her – so I have been putting on loop children’s songs in both Japanese and English. We’ve also recorded my father singing some tunes in Khmer and placing those on a CD for her.
- What was the last 3 movie that you seen in theater ?
It’s hard for me to get out to the movies these days…hmmm…last 3 include: Avatar, Youth In Revolt, and the new Star Trek movie.
- Since it a new decade where do you see yourself in life 10 years from now?
Hopefully moved out to California with my family in a nice house someone near the ocean. And of course hopefully I am still making art and performing and agitating the world. And hopefully my daughter is helping me with the agitation.
- What is your movement and why should we support you?
I don’t have a movement. It’s not about a singular movement. It’s also not about ownership of any one movement. I think we are all a part of multiple movements. Similar to how we are part of multiple communities. Movements and communities are linked to our identities and we are never one single thing. I’d love people to support my work by coming out to my performances/exhibitions, talking to me about the work and their opinions/questions/concerns about the works, visiting my website, and in general acknowledging the need for this kind of work. I like people to form their own meaning to the work and at some point I like to engage in dialogue about the work. This is how we can begin to connect the personal to the political.
- 7 words to best describe yourself.
Passionate, uncompromising, critical, sarcastic, intense, sensitive, and devoted.
- 7 things you would put in your time capsule?
A black and white family portrait taken before the Khmer Rouge war, my daughter’s dried up umbilical chord, my wedding ring, my memory of swimming with Walruses in the Pacific Ocean, every sunrise over Angkor Wat, and recordings of my father singing in Khmer.
- Any last words? Next Stop: World Domination!
( www.mujestic.com/anida_yoeu_ali ) copyrighted 03/29/10