Refugee Narratives: Ten Stories of Cambodian Refugees

Martin Lam Nguyen: Artist Statement

Prayer of Sorrow was created for the exhibition “From A Far Distant Land” in Hue, 1997. Hue, my hometown in Central Vietnam with many Buddhist temples, had suffered terribly during the Vietnam War and especially the Tet Offensive in 1968.  Beneath the gentle appearance of this ancient capital of Vietnam now lies vast, untold destruction on its buildings, monuments, and human lives.  Nha Ca, a Vietnamese writer and poet, wrote a best-seller novel about it, Put On The Mourning Cloth for Hue.  She began the book with “A Brief Preface: Written to Accept Guilt.”   

Buddhist families still offer incense and flowers in front of their home at the full moon every month to remember their deceased.  Prayer of Sorrow is my offering of flowers from North America to that land, for 36 months, which is three years, the formal period reserved for mourning.

We often do not put Suffering and Beauty together.  Or, maybe we do.  

Martin Lam Nguyen, C.S.C.

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