New mural in Sacramento’s Little Saigon accused of inaccuracies, lack of representation

New mural in Sacramento’s Little Saigon accused of inaccuracies, lack of representation
via @wideopenwalls / Instagram

In response to the backlash, Wide Open Walls said they had “issued a call for participants that included API artists, underscoring our dedication to diversity and inclusivity"

February 12, 2024
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A 500-foot mural project in Sacramento’s Little Saigon that purportedly intended to celebrate the Lunar New Year — or Tet in Vietnamese communities — has faced accusations of inaccuracies and exclusion in its creation. 
About the project: The mural, commissioned by WellSpace Health through Wide Open Walls, was painted on Stockton Boulevard by five artists, listed by Wide Open Walls as Chimsworld (@chimsworld), Cova (@cova____), Emercam (@emercam_pro), Gman Hunter (@gman_hunter) and Open Heart Juskuz (@open_heart_juskuz).
The pieces, which reportedly depict five unique interpretations of the Year of the Dragon, show an assortment of images of dragons, tribespeople and an elderly person. While organizers originally set to unveil the mural on Feb. 10, they postponed it to a later date due to rain and “important community feedback.”
Critics sound off: Some social media users alleged inaccuracies and cultural appropriation in the artworks.
“Not all Asian cultures celebrate Lunar New Year,” one Instagram user wrote. “Making this assumption that any and all vaguely Asian art would be okay illustrates ignorance and a lack of thoughtful research. Why did you do such bare minimum work on such a cultural topic? How much did you divert AWAY from the Asian community in this project?”
“As a first-generation Vietnamese American who was born and raised in Sacramento, I am extremely disgusted by this gross cultural appropriation,” another user noted. “It is clear that our religious holiday is being exploited by culture vultures.”
“None of those tattoos are Kalinga and we don’t even celebrate Lunar New Year,” another user wrote, referring to an image depicting an individual from an indigenous ethnic group in the Philippines.
Other critics lamented that the organizers’ artist selection process lacked representation of the communities portrayed in the mural, reported ABC10.
“There should have been people tapped in these communities to represent our stories and cultures,” said Filipinx artist Jamie P. Cardenas. 
The sentiment is echoed by Megan Sapigao of The Laban Group, who noted that the artists who made the mural “appear to have no ties culturally, ethnically to the communities that they are depicting in their murals.” 
Call for open dialogue: Jacqui Nguyen of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs sees the matter as an opportunity for educational dialogue. 
“Next time, if there’s an opportunity to perhaps form an organizing committee,” Nguyen told KCRA. “Have representatives from those different communities share what the celebration is like for the lunar new year.”
What Wide Open Walls says: In response to the backlash, Wide Open Walls said they had “issued a call for participants that included API artists, underscoring our dedication to diversity and inclusivity.” The artists were reportedly selected based on several factors including the project’s requirements and the artists’ availability.
Wide Open Walls added that they intend to host a forum to “further engage with the community and address specific concerns mentioned.”
 
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      Ryan General

      Ryan General
      is a Senior Reporter for NextShark

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