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“Fourth World” Artist Asks: What Are You Doing for Peace?

4 October 2008 No Comment


As a refugee, I belong to the fourth world, the people who have no country. I was born in Vietnam in 1950, at the beginning of the Vietnam War. I became a refugee for the first time at age four, moving from North Vietnam to South Vietnam when the country was divided. I went to school, I had a home, I had a job and a family, but when the war came I became nothing.

In 1975 I fled clutching my baby and wearing one shoe. We jumped into anything that could float. Nobody wanted us. Our boats would come to Singapore, to Malaysia, and be greeted by guns. Many were killed, many drowned, and some made it. I made it.

I didn’t know what peace was, growing up. Our nightmares became real, for me and 50 million Vietnamese people. There were B-52s bombing us. There were two million Vietnamese killed, and one million Cambodians. I lost my husband in the chaos, but I came to Alaska finally and I saw peace. I was up in the clean mountains with the summer flowers. It healed me, nurtured me, made me smile again. My heart changed in Alaska.

Now every woman I meet is my family. Every place I put my foot is home, and the moon is my lantern. I appreciate the true value of life, and there is always hope.

I had been trained as a journalist like my father, but I broke my pen and picked up a brush to show the beauty around me. The art came from my love for Alaska, and even my littlest sketches sold themselves. It was a pure gift from God. Van Gogh would look at me and say, “Lucky duck!”

I belong to nobody but the fourth world. I love this class of society. We start over at the bottom and we can only come up. It is the foundation of who I am and I treasure it. I am not bitter; I am thankful. I have been blessed by both worlds. I know the best of East and West. I know war and peace. So now I make art for peace.

The American dream has nurtured me. I have nothing to sell except the peace message, and I am determined to sell it. When people tell me they don’t want to talk about it, I insist. Why don’t you want to talk about it? Your children and grandchildren will pay.

The world is turning around, but you have to push. Peace calls everyone. Everyone has a job. Don’t give me any excuse. Doctor, teacher, singer? Tell me what you do, and I will tell you what you can do for peace.

The image shown is one of Huong’s many paintings. You can see more of them and learn more about Huong at

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