Thursday, July 30, 2009

Art Brings Old Enemies Together

Ed, Carla, and Chris Wubbena visited the Hanoi Art University, and met with the former president and current president of the Vietnam Fine Art Association. The meeting brought former enemies to the same table. Below are some of Chris' impressions.

My mother and father had a great time seeing the students and looking at their artwork. We were also shown the University’s Art Museum where they had photos of the University in wartime. They explained to us that the school had to be moved to the countryside because it was being bombed by the US. After we were told that, I saw my father going over each photo, and I could tell that it was bothering him. He asked me to take photos of the photos and he said, he couldn’t believe that they had to move their art school because of what our country had done.

The day wound down nicely with a meeting with the former president and current president of the Vietnam Fine Art Association. The conversation was warm but ultimately found its way to the subject of war. The president mentioned, as he looked at my father, that he was in the war and although they were on different sides, that the war was in the past. Then he looked at me and said that now we have a new generation to help. I could not have said it better.

I am always amazed at what art can do. Our trip here to Vietnam began as an idea for a new body of artwork to explore the Vietnam/American War from many sides, from the side of US soldiers, to Vietnamese soldiers, to sons and daughters of veterans. But it has already grown to be much more. We have been reminded of who our friends are and have made wonderful new friends already throughout this project. Art has brought my father, mother, and I to Vietnam to understand all of our parts in true history and the celebration of cultures. I undoubtedly know that this is not only helping my father with his involvement in the war, it is helping others as well, both in the US and Vietnam.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Impression

Over the next two weeks, we will hear from Chris Wubbena, a sculpture professor at Southeast Missouri State University. He is currently in Vietnam with his father, Ed, and mother, Carla. Ed is a Vietnam War veteran, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it’s his first trip to Vietnam in nearly 40 years.

On today’s installment of Chris’s audio journal, he discusses their flight to Vietnam and his father’s observations as they wait for their plane to Hanoi.

We’ve now endured the long plane ride from Chicago, USA to Seoul, South Korea and finally to Hanoi, Vietnam. The twenty-four hours of total travel was nothing compared to the new world we were about to discover. Even though we had done tremendous preparation, we’ve now quickly found that nothing could prepare us for what we were about to experience.

As we sat in Seoul waiting for our flight to Hanoi, it was hard to not think about the fact that we were heading into North Vietnam. Later on my father told me that as we were boarding the plane he kept wondering if any of those people were in the war fighting on the other side, or if they had friends or relatives that were killed because of the war. You could tell that he was contemplating his part in the war as many veterans do. But the amazing thing was that he didn’t show it.

We were heading into what was at an earlier time enemy land and my father was definitely feeling emotions, but it seems that it was a different feeling for him, now 59, as opposed to those feelings he has felt for the last forty years leading up to this trip. It is hard to imagine that the man sitting next to me in the plane was 18 the last time he flew over to Vietnam. He had his 19th birthday when he was in the field. I can’t even remember my 19th birthday.

When we landed in Hanoi, we were greeted by the heat and humidity of Vietnam. The heat was so great at 10 o’clock at night, that I started to wonder how we would be able to handle all of the things we had planned. But right away we were welcomed with open arms by Duong Van Loan, the friend we made over the past year. As we rode to our hotel we were transported into the strange reality of Vietnam with houses stacked on top of each other, side by side, motorcycles weaving in and out of lanes, and drivers honking, swerving, and driving into on coming traffic. We found that driving here is like a continuous game of chicken. We went to bed that night wondering what to expect the next day. We are in North Vietnam.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ed Wubbena will return to Vietnam for the first time in nearly 40 years on Sunday, July 26. A Vietnam Veteran, Ed spent 364 days in Vietnam when he was 18 years old.

Since his duty in Vietnam, Ed has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and routinely found it difficult to talk about his time in the war. By returning to the country where he endured constant hardship and suffering, Ed hopes to come to terms with the most formative year of his adult life.

The last time Ed Wubbena went to Vietnam, he left his girlfriend, Carla, in Shell Rock, Iowa. Upon returning from the war, they married. This time Carla won't stay behind. She will accompany Ed to Vietnam to see first-hand the country where he endured so much pain.

Ed and Carla will also be joined by their son, Chris Wubbena. An art professor at Southeast Missouri State University, Chris will produce a series of artwork that represents the Wubbena family's experiences in Vietnam. Chris says that the artwork will be a multimedia installation which will include sculpture, etchings, audio, and video. Chris hopes that the artwork will represent not what Vietnam was to his father, but instead the artwork will be a metaphor "of a young man’s memory of a place he knew so little about during war and as a tool to record a new lasting memory."
This KRCU blog will document the Wubbena family's journey in Vietnam as they discover what they discover. Chris will join us with audio journal entries detailing his family's thoughts and impressions as they continue forward on their process of healing.

Before leaving for Vietnam, Chris recorded an interview with KRCU's Jacob McCleland. Click here to listen to the audio.

The WCF Courier newspaper in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Iowa wrote a two-piece article about Ed Wubbena and his family. Follow the links below to read the stories.

Photo by Rick Chase, Courier staff photograher.