CAAM co-founder Loni Ding is among six trailblazing Asian-Americans featured in Know History, Know Self, a public art piece created by award-winning Oakland artist Minnie Phan. The project showcases poster designs of multiple Asian-American pioneers in arts and culture, paying homage to their impacts and recognizing their connections to the city of San Francisco. Ding, who passed away in 2010, was an independent filmmaker and producer with a history of activism and commitment to public service. In addition to co-founding the National Asian American Telecommunications Association, now known as Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), she taught Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a trailblazer in her field; considered by many to be “the godmother of ethnic filmmaking”, her award-winning films including the PBS series Ancestors in the Americas were among the first to bring awareness to and document Asian stories.
The art piece Know History, Know Self by Minnie Phan honors the work and the legacies of these Asian-American figures, including Ruth Asawa, Bernice Bing, James Leong, Martin Wong, and Kaisik Wong. “I chose artists who are deceased and have legacies to pull from. Living artists are still telling their stories; deceased artists [like Loni Ding] deserve recognition and preservation,” says Minnie. “Ding made truly powerful work that is still making an impact decades after their initial release.” Ding’s work, which focused on empowering and uplifting Asian-American perspectives, helped amplify their voices and incorporate them into mainstream media.
Regarding her art, Minnie says: “I hope that someone reads or notices something in the comic and that it stays with them,” and that it “opens up a door or starts a conversation.” In recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of these figures, “Know History, Know Self” hopes to spark discussion and bring awareness to Asian-American stories.
The artwork was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) for the 2023 Art on Market Street Poster Series program.
Know History, Know Self features six dual-sided posters, each celebrating one of the six influential Asian-Americans in art and culture. The front of each poster showcases the individual in color, and the back contains comic strip style art in black and white, highlighting the featured individual’s achievements and contributions.
Pia Yoon is an intern at CAAM and a student at Stanford University majoring in Psychology & minoring in Spanish.