Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

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Each May, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States, recognizing the many contributions the peoples of Asia and the Pacific Islands have made to the richness of our cultural, historical, and social fabric. Art and artistic traditions from Asia and the Pacific deserve particular attention given how these cultures have left an indelible mark on our shared human experience, both then and now.

Although we can’t explore the full depths of Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture in this journal alone, we invite you to join us as we explore the origins of AAPI Heritage Month, how Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to impact and influence art and culture, and browse resources to help better put AAPI history into its proper context. Whether you're celebrating for the first time, or have been part of the community many times over, we look forward to you joining this moment of celebration and learning.

Finding Equilibrium
A Chromatic Cocoon

The History of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Commemorating Asian and Pacific Islander heritage began in the latter part of the 20th century, as peoples from that part of the world became more visibly present in a number of countries. In the United States, May was selected to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander heritage because of two important historical developments: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, primarily built using Chinese labor.

While the first Asians in the Americas were believed to have arrived in the late 16th century, Asians and Pacific Islanders have since contributed immensely to the history of the United States. From Larry Itliong and the Filipino farm workers of the Delano grape strike, to the Japanese soldiers of World War II fighting in the most decorated 442nd Infantry Regiment, to the Indians who've fought for equal citizenship rights and the many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made inroads into politics, sports, business, and the arts, it became clear that there needed to be a time to commemorate their impact.

we remember: a memorial in 10,000 words

The push to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander heritage in the United States only began in 1977, after the country’s bicentennial celebrations. First celebrated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week in 1979, where the first ten days of May was designated as a period of celebration for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, AAPI Heritage Month in its current form was celebrated for the first time in 1991.

In addition to the United States, Canada started its own celebration of Asian heritage and the contributions of Asian Canadians in the 1990s, and Canada's Asian Heritage Month was officially designated in May 2002. In the United Kingdom, South Asian Heritage Month was first celebrated in July 2019, recognizing the deep cultural ties that link the UK and South Asia, while in New Zealand, a country with large numbers of Pacific Islanders, there are language weeks for these groups throughout the year, including for Maori, Samoan, the Cook Islands and Tongan, celebrating the heritage of those peoples and their contributions to the formation of modern New Zealand.

Hate Is A Virus

Celebrating Art in the AAPI Community

Art in all its forms is a central element of Asian American and Pacific Islander culture, and we connected with a number of organizations their thoughts on how art is a source of joy, strength and inspiration for AAPI communities throughout the United States.

“This year has borne witness to a historical moment where many people across different communities came together under movements like #StopAAPIHate. I hope to see this unity continue, through art, hashtags, and moreover the voices and minds of every person,” notes Sophia Lai, who chairs Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence (ASPIRE), a group dedicated to building a community of Asian American women leaders. She says that art can be misused or weaponized, or, it can inspire and heal, and that she hopes these lead us into a more connected, yet authentic, world. “These trends uplift those who have been afraid to speak out, that they recognize their strengths and value, intrinsic to themselves instead of what others tell them.”

Andy Lowe, Director of Production at East West Players, the first Asian American theater group in the United States, emphasizes meanwhile the value of narrative. “Narrative has been the number one weapon leveraged against Asian Americans throughout American History... Narratives that divide us and pit us against other communities, narratives that affect perception, disempower, and other us.” Remarking further on how narratives matter, he drives the point that narrative is “the difference between monolithic indistinguishable horde, and a human life. The more we are able to own our own narrative the more we will feel REAL effects of inclusion. Stories provide inspiration, role models, catharsis, share empathy, and generate confidence in how we take ownership of our place in this society.”

Creators, Exhibits, Collections, and More

The Internet has aided in spreading further awareness of art by Asians and Pacific Islanders, and this is evident in the many projects, exhibits, and initiatives that use art as a means of expressing the many hopes and dreams of artists from various AAPI communities.

HM Queen Liliuokalani Onipaa
Anna May Wong Black Velvet Painting

DeclarASIAN’s Virtual Gallery

A selection of traditional art made by young Asian Americans, giving a glimpse into how they express themselves during these unprecedented times.

Asian Futures, Without Asians

Astria Suparak imagines and analyzes through a variety of mediums over 40 years of American science fiction cinema, and how the medium has visualized a future of the world that leans heavily on Asian cultural themes but without Asians being physically present.

Keeping Love Close

A photo essay from The New York Times on how Asians and Asian Americans express love in various ways, including through food, photography and visual art.

Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Asian American Art Collection

The Smithsonian has curated for online consumption several pieces of art from prominent Asian and Asian American artists, drawing on a variety of mediums.

Asian Art Museum

This San Francisco-based museum has extensive physical holdings with art from both ancient and modern Asian traditions, many of which are showcased on their website.

What We Look Like

Eleven Asian American illustrators were asked by The New York Times to share their experiences with finding their identity by drawing self-portraits.

Ask Me Anything with @nak


On Thursday, May 27th at 12:00 PM Pacific time, join us as we host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with @nak, a Filipina American professional artist from Atlanta, Georgia.

A self-taught artist and a deviant since age 16, @nak has created art for a number of private clients, and is also a storyboard artist for an Atlanta-based filmmaker. Her journey towards embracing her heritage connects directly with her artistry and advocacy, which is reflected in the various themes her work embodies. This passion for social justice, environmental awareness, and mental health is rooted in the intention to leave behind a better world with less hate and more kindness for her niece, nephews, and their generation. She's proud to inspire the community by representing more types of people and lots of imagination in her work.

You’re invited to ask questions in the comments section about @nak’s experiences as an Asian American artist, as well as how her culture and identity has influenced her art. She’ll answer your questions during the scheduled AMA time. Ask as many questions as you like!

Resources for Continued Education

The following resources are a starting point for continued education relating to AAPI Heritage Month, both general and art-related. Delve into the information here and around the internet regarding Asian and Pacific American history, and if you have additional resources or interesting references you’d like to share, include them in a comment on the journal!

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month The Library of Congress and a number of other government agencies and museums jointly host an official website for AAPI Heritage Month, pointing to a selection of their online and offline collections and resources on Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture.

Asia Society The non-profit Asia Society, which operates in the United States and in 13 countries around Asia, regularly hosts art and culture-themed events throughout the year, many of which are available on their website.

Asian Cultural Council The Asian Cultural Council organizes cultural exchanges and other programs that help further understanding between the cultures of Asia and the United States. In addition to these programs, the ACC also has several fellowships and grants available for Asian creatives to advance their craft and to further cross-cultural ties.

PBS Specials: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is making available throughout the month of May a special collection of videos and other content that explores the history, culture and traditions of the various AAPI communities living in the United States.

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center The Smithsonian Institution’s migratory museum for Asian and Pacific American history and culture hosts exhibits and resources featuring Asian American history, amplifying Asian and Pacific Islander voices, and educating people about the intersections of Asian and Pacific Islander history and culture to contemporary socio-political issues and developments both online and in communities throughout the United States.

UC Berkeley’s South Asian Art Initiative The University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for South Asia Studies hosts an initiative for promoting South Asian art and artists, where it organizes regular events throughout the year, including exhibitions and conversations with prominent South Asian and South Asian American artists.


Your Thoughts

Answer these questions in a comment on this journal to receive an AAPI Heritage Month badge for your Profile, which features animals common to the various cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands. This shared mythology can cross borders and bridge cultural divides, especially for members of the AAPI diaspora, and help find meaning and comfort in origins.

  1. Which Asian or Pacific Islander artists do you follow?

  2. How is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage celebrated in your area?

  3. Is there an Asian or Pacific Islander figure or story from your community or country that more people should know about?

You're also encouraged to ask @nak questions about her experiences as an Asian American artist, as well as how her culture and identity have influenced her art!

Please note: DeviantArt staff may remove a badge if a deviant's comment or contribution doesn't demonstrate the spirit of AAPI Heritage Month.

Benazir Bhutto
Daily #Art - Day 05-17-19
Tammy Duckworth
Nathan Chen
Kei Nishikori2

Browse the AAPI Heritage Month Collection

© 2021 team
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1. I haven't found any yet by when I do ill follow them.

2. I the mid west our schools talk about famous Asian-Americans and pacific islanders in the announcements.

3. I think a story more people should talk about is Pele and the 4 water goddesses.

NadiaCGart's avatar
  1. For now none

  2. In the city where I live there is a thematic square for this heritage because it is considered one of the 4 cultures that make up the region, however there are no celebrations that are especially dedicated to that.

  3. I don't know any

LaurasGalaxy's avatar
  1. Idk

  2. I don't think it's celebrated much, but maybe I have celebrated something and I just don't know.

  3. There are plenty of good stories, I can't decide.

cocoaberi's avatar
  1. Hummm....unless people state their heritage on their profiles I won't really know where they come from or what ethnicity they identify with. I of course watch people because I enjoy their art and if they hail from other countries and cultures or just next door...then all the better!

  2. I have celebrated the Lunar New Year, but I am sure I did not do it properly but it was interesting to read the zodiacs and the story of how the zodiacs where numbered. Forgive me if I am mixing Lunar New Year with Chinese New Year...I know they are related but are different.

  3. All I know about the AAPI people in my community is this...they are Quiet, Polite , Productive and are a positive force in the neighborhood. My opinion may not count for much since I've known very few personally. I remember many years ago fellow Christians who were also Asian were doing their best to teach a newbie Christian like me(I was always a terrible student!). I will never forget their love and compassion but most of all their patience with me (Lord knows they tried!)

AlyssSolo789's avatar
  1. Which Asian or Pacific Islander artists do you follow? None at the moment.

  2. How is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage celebrated in your area? Special events at centers.

  3. Is there an Asian or Pacific Islander figure or story from your community or country that more people should know about? All of them in general. To be honest, stories from other cultures aren't share enough, other wise I might of had a specific answer to this.

selinaw323's avatar
  1. I'm not sure

  2. I don't know

  3. It depends on if I can find stories to tell

Imakegiants741's avatar
  1. Wolfshadowgirl

  2. We hug them and compliment them.

  3. I've had some friends from the Philippines.

AestheticJournal's avatar
  1. Which Asian or Pacific Islander artists do you follow? non yet

  2. How is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage celebrated in your area? not really

  3. Is there an Asian or Pacific Islander figure or story from your community or country that more people should know about? I wish there stories were taught in schools

rassberrytea's avatar
  1. I haven't been on Deviantart long, and my parents won't let me get any other social media, so I don't think I follow anyone of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage yet-but I would love to!

  2. I live in a very country town and I don't see many celebrations for these cultures unfortunately, but I would love it if there was.

  3. Now I don't know anyone of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage in my hometown, but I really wish people would be kinder to people of those cultures in general. There are so many things to love about these people, because they share so many different experiences and food and traditions that we would've never known unless people from all backgrounds came together and added there ways of life to ours!

kumaxcreates's avatar

is anime japan art?

Horseradishsaladmari's avatar
  1. Tbh... I have no idea ;-;

  2. I do not see it be celbrated often but I believe that it is celebrated.. (my city is kinda racist which makes me sad...)

  3. Well.... I have no story BUT I think taht people in my place could just look around and see that asians are not monsters, or theat they carry diseases, or that something is wrong with their skin color... Even in a matter of fact of all of that I was terrifed of what people would've done to people around me as well as my family.

  1. I don't know many Asian artist as i'm really trying to see what many artist have to offer and show there works.

  2. if celebrated as of being hawaiian decent i know that is celebrated through our hula and our monarch competition dance.

  3. A story that is common to talk about in knowing our culture is our goddess pele though there man stories on this goddess it differs on what you see and of course you can read up on her using google.

StarDust114's avatar
  1. I don’t know anyone here with that kind of Heritage, but I have some friends irl who are from those countries!

  1. I’m from a small town in Ohio so, I haven’t seen anyone celebrating it safely ;-;. But I try too! I make jackets for people who are celebrating it!

  1. This story is from my friend, I had to translate it so, I’m sorry if it’s a little wonky^^’. “When I first came to America, I was honestly scared. I heard so many things about this place and I didn’t know if I would be able to adapt to American life.after a few years though, I found out what I liked and what dreams I could pursue in America. Now I feel like I belong here! I have so many friends at my side and I know I’m not alone anymore!”- Big thanks to HaiSu for letting me tell her small story!

JoshanJeremy's avatar
  1. Im honestly new to Deviantart and havent really explore much of it. So.. I pretty much have no Fav Artist for now. But hey, i am from Southeast Asia too, so i can be called an Asian Artist (even though my Art doesnt have anything about Asia, yet).

  2. I honestly dont know much about this kind of Event cause im more of like the not up to date kind of guy and just like to mind my own business. But i would search more about the Event more later.

  3. Hmm.. I dont know, i mean.. Just like before, i honestly dont know much. Sorry to dissapoint.

SaranKun's avatar
  1. I'm new to DeviantArt so I'm yet to explore more to find an Asian artist, but I hail from south Asia, so I'm an Asian artist too.

  2. umm, there's no particular celebrations dedicated to Asian heritage in Asia .

3. Shahrukh Khan is one of the most famous and richest actors all over the world, he is the face of the Indian cinema, He is one of the finest artists of his generation.

wanderingromii's avatar
  1. I've always loved the style and colourful pieces from Takashi Murakami. I follow many online artists as well.

  2. I know every year a festival is held to celebrate South Asian heritage. This year it starts in July.

  3. I am unsure but plan to find out more!

Ptero-Pterodactylus's avatar
  1. Not at all, never heard about such a thing

  2. I‘m not aware of one, but I like good stories (independent of the ethnic)

TheSilentShutter's avatar
  1. Since i am new here , so not know any southern asian artist yet but will definately follow if i find one.

  2. Asian nor pacific heritage is not celebrated as such in my area.

  3. I don't know for sure but i will find out and if so i will publish.

CyanicalArt's avatar

Which Asian or Pacific Islander artists do you follow?

I personally do not follow any Asian nor Pacific Islander artists on DeviantArt; however, I do occasionally look at artworks in online exhibits nowadays.

How is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage celebrated in your area?

In Singapore, Warnermedia is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The company will launch a series of campaigns that highlight influential AAPI employees, executives, and talent that features their contributions as Asian and Pacific Islander artists.

Is there an Asian or Pacific Islander figure or story from your community or country that more people should know about?

Tan Swie Hian is a cultural icon in Singapore. He held his first exhibition in 1973 and ever since he has exhibited his paintings in oil, Chinese ink and acrylic, sculptures, calligraphy, cartogravures, prints and seal engravings in numerous solo and group shows in Singapore and worldwide. In 1987, he was conferred the Singapore Cultural Medallion.

DehemiN's avatar

Happy AAPI heritage month!:+fav:

Actually, just yesterday I have joined to this platform.And happy to say that this is like a heaven for me as an art and lover :love:

  1. Which Asian or Pacific Islander artists do you follow?

* actually I don't check it before following an artist or giving them a feedback

2. How is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage celebrated in your area?

* I live in sri lanka. so it is not celebrated here

3. Is there an Asian or Pacific Islander figure or story from your community or country that more people should know about?

* No I'm not sure. But hereby I'm going to explore!:boing:

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