This module will focus on the Buddhist Bug and Red Chador projects. The text below is a draft from students and needs to be finalized/edited.

June 2, 2020 text from Sam Otake

A Diasporic Identity

The complexity, struggle, and comprehension of one’s identity is something that can shape and distinguish the way in which a person understands themselves and the world around them. For Anida Yoeu Ali, identity is a key aspect that shaped and continues to shape her understanding of the world as it is a defined catalyst for her artwork. By using her identity, Anida is able to develop a story, mostly narratives that break the societal conventions that are perceived about her identity. By telling these stories, she is not only breaking these conventions, but she is bringing about a change and helping to mend communities and people that endure the hardships of these perceptions. [1] Traveling to communities where “otherness” is feared or underrepresented, Anida performs and expresses this otherness. From traveling to Japan to represent the marginalized mothers to Washington DC to represent Muslims as they were the victims to a travel ban that occurred in the US. Her performances are overly expressive as to make people clearly see this “otherness”.

For Anida, she would like to reclaim the word “trigger” and the ideas behind one “being triggered” back and reform it to addressing discomfort. She sees performance as triggering, healing, provoking, taking time, and can happen anywhere to anyone at any time. Her point is to make the audience of her performances and pieces uncomfortable. As that same discomfort is the feeling that people viewed as the “other” feel when society views them in a specific way. Furthermore, this discomfort caused by her performance’s are key in starting a discussion about change and about “otherness”.

Buddhist Bug

The Buddhist Bug is Anida’s most ambitious and longest-lasting work that still continues to this day for over a decade long. The piece embodies the insider/outsider identity that many people who are viewed as the “other” face in spaces where this “othering” occurs. It indeed encompasses the diasporic body and struggle of feeling like whether or not one belongs in a place where one is supposed to feel as if they belong. It is ever so often that the people that are supposed to belong are looked on as an outsider or an “other” which can be destructive and harmful to one’s identity. In order to break this perspective, the Buddhist Bug seeks to develop a new spiritual and social landscape by existing in a surreal state amongst ordinary places and people.

The inspiration for the creature spans across many of Anida’s identities and is rooted in absurdity. The color of the work comes straight from the Saffron robes of the Buddhist monks which attracted her eyes so much on her many trips to Southeast Asia. The creature was also inspired by Anida’s identity as a mother. The long, slinky-like structure was inspired by children’s play tunnels that her daughter would play with. S/he’s ability to take up an entire space as well as coil into a small ball really speaks measures to the idea of surreal existence within a space. The Bug exists as a tunnel, connecting two things together. S/he also may exist as a bridge, which links two points together.

The really interesting aspect of the creature is that when s/he exists in a space for a time, people surrounding it start to interact with it because they begin to recognize that this seemingly surreal thing actually exists in the space around them. Mostly, the images you see of the Bug are from Cambodia and exist within everyday environments. Another key aspect of the Bug is seeing how the landscapes have changed since s/he has been there. Those landscapes are ever-changing, but the bug has come and interacted with it in order to make it a little more surrealistic.  In addition to urban landscapes in Cambodia, the Bug also exists in rural landscapes. S/he exists here.

[end of Sam Otake text]


This Spotlight module was created by DePaul University undergraduate students Katelyn Murakami, Maggie O’Donnell, Samuel Otake as part of Professor Laura Kina’s Spring 2020 course AAS 203/ART 395 Asian American Arts and Culture. The module was completed by….

Anida Yoeu Ali visiting artist talk April 27, 2020, DePaul University, zoom, AAS 203/ART 395 Asian American Arts and Culture, Professor Laura Kina.