The Naked Truth: Royal Rebel meets Global Agitator

Listen to my interview with Her Royal Highness Soma Norodom here.

The interview was a performance entitled The Naked Truth. (warning: it’s 1 hr 30 min). And yes no topic was off limits when the Royal Rebel chops it up with the Global Agitator!

I wanted to take advantage of being on the radio and try something i’ve never done before. i figured people couldn’t really see me ‘naked’ so why not bare it all on the radio. after all as a performance artist trained in the “west” it is my duty to perform one piece in my life butt naked (ok this would be my second piece in my birthday suit but the first naked piece was also never performed in public – only for the camera but not what you’re thinking – perv!). what’s great about radio is that it leaves much to the imagination — will people believe what they hear or will they only believe what they see? is the point of this whole performance whether or not i am naked or whether or not you believe i am naked or whether or not any of this matters. i could just be messing with everyone…even myself. the truth is a few days before my appearance on FM 90.0, we at Studio Revolt realized that censorship in cambodia is a reality and one we’d have to deal with in terms of some of our own work. recently, we noticed some difficulties playing some videos we posted related to deportations of Cambodian Americans. one particular video “Returnees Orientation to Cambodia” hosted by Thea Som seemed to be “jammed” for a few days. And then we noticed that “My Asian Americana” a video we submitted to the AAPI White House “What’s Your Story” Video Challenge was also a bit “jammed.” We found it odd that this would be happening right now to only these two videos. the point is censorship is a reality in cambodia and i’ve seen it happen where certain webpages are blocked by certain internet providers (ahem…metfone) for whatever miscellaneous reasons. basically, going into this radio interview i was NOT GOING TO BE CENSORED for any reason. NO SElF-CENSORSHIP (which seems to be a practice here) and NO STATE SPONSORED CENSORSHIP. Basically i believe in freedom of expression. i believe in standing up for yourself, for others, and for a greater cause. i believe there is nothing more sacred and precious in artmaking than the freedom for self-expression.

the other angle on all this is basically i didn’t know what to wear. i was about to meet real royalty so should i wear something formal or informal? i didn’t pack my prom dress to cambodia, and i thought it would be too weird to wear my Buddhist Bug costume. Soma wanted me in a Chicago Bulls jersey to which i was like “hell no!”  i’ll never be seen in any kind of sport jersey. so i told her that since i couldn’t figure out what to wear, i might as well just come naked. after all, i am a performance artist.

the interview was intense and filled with loads of humor. we talked about tampons, my secret tattoos, my fulbright research, my desire for more shade in this country, my top 10 loves of living in phnom penh, freedom, pizza, the youth, my kids, my rugged mountaineer looking japanese husband, my future plans for complete world domination and how Reaksmey Yean will be The Minister of Hair in my cabinet and Kosal Khiev the new Prince of Poetry. hey – life just doesn’t get better than that!  it was a fun interview and memorable to say the least.

here are my top 5 favorite lines from the interview – i am paraphrasing since my memory is shotty:

1.) “on my right breast is a tattoo of angelina jolie. on my left breast is her son maddox and when i squeeze my cleavage together they make the Bayon!”

2.) “if we are the prime ministers, we would have two embassies in the US and all deportees would be able to go back to the US on our embassy land!”

3.) “no where else in the world can i bring my daughter to a live radio interview, eat pizza and be naked talking to royalty”

4.) ” sorry Pizza World but i actually like really thin crust sauceless pizza”

5.) “we need more trees. that’s why cambodian people are so dark – we need more shade. it’s called malop people!”

ENJOY PEOPLE. LISTEN AND THEN TAKE OFF ALL YOUR CLOTHES. thanks Soma, PUC Radio staff, all the perverted gawkers snapping photos of me, my family, and i finally i would like to thank the academy of motion pictures…oh wait, no asian people are honored in the oscar…again! Oh America – like they say here in southeast asia – SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT.

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Living in Phnom Penh – Top 10 Loves/Annoyances

In January 2011 we moved to Phnom Penh Cambodia. We launched a new creative media lab, Studio Revolt, so check that link out.
My thoughts about living here can be summed up in the following lists.

10 things i love about living in Phnom Penh
1.) super family friendly - they love children here and no where in the world will children be so welcomed. no where else will wait staff hold your newborn baby for you while you eat. no where else would you actually trust complete strangers to hold your baby while you are dining.
2.) coffee shops are super abundant and offer excellent food, pastry, coffee and environment for wi-fi needs and meetings.
we love going to Brown and Java.
3.) restaurants – there are so many awesome places to eat and they range from cheap eats to moderate prices to fancy schmancy!
We’ve tried them all from pushcart vendors (dumpling patties/fried noodles) to fancy set menu french food dining (La Residence).
4.) we love our apartment! 3rd floor up amongst the trees and overlooking rooftops. windows on all 3 sides. open space, clean and bright.
the price also is right for us! we feel like it’s a nice retreat but still in the middle of the city.
5.) daycare is affordable for our family. we know many khmer families don’t have this privilege but coming from the states where we pay an outrageous amount for mediocre help. here in PP we have an excellent pre-school for our toddler where she has structured activities and actual lessons, she gets bathed, fed, change of clothes and takes long naps. our monthly payment is the same as if we would pay for one week’s worth of daycare in the US.
6.) the weather is awesome. beautiful weather with a beautiful clear sky regularly.
7.) the contemporary art scene is hot!!! it is very exciting to be here in PP right now at this moment, especially as artists. the energy is electric and the youth-led charge is contagious.
8.) the riverfront – we love strolling along the riverfront especially at night after dessert at Blue Pumpkin. a sunset boat ride on the river is also an absolutely beautiful must do activity. boats are rarely full so it’s like having one big boat to yourself on these sunset rides.
9.) “convertible” rides – we ride tuk tuks and motos all the time and it’s loads of fun. it’s amazing to feel the wind through your hair and on your skin while riding around town. our whole family of 4 fit on a Daelim moto – we ride khmer style.
10.) free to be artists – we feel free and unattached to our busy insane commercialized lives in Chicago. we are free here to create and spend time thinking and making and thinking some more about art. leaving our lives behind was the best thing we ever did. now we live and work as artists – all while toting our kids around in a urban setting that’s family friendly and still metropolitan!

10 things that annoy me about living in Phnom Penh
1.) the ants!!! a gazillion ants, all variations, all the time. super mini eety beety ones, termites, red biting ones, dark black flying ones, saw dust looking ones. they are every where and you can’t leave anyfood out for longer than 5 minutes without them attacking. this is a serious problem with kids. they are in bathroom, my kitchen, my kid’s diaper, our dry towels and they bite when we’re asleep. sneaky bastards!
2.) no price tags – it’s a hassle to shop here and you have to negotiate all the time and i think 99% of the time i am overcharged
3.) traffic – a bit lawless out here – there is no such thing as “one way” – and crossing a street with kids is hazardous
4.) not a walking culture - no one walks much to actually get from place to place. people walk around the independent monument in a circle for exercise but here no one walks because there are either no sidewalks or they are way too jacked up or it’s too damn dangerous because the cars (especially SUVs) drive like madmen
5.) the SUVs – these drivers think they rule the road and there is a cultural rule that SUVs have the right of way.
Here is the caste system of road vehicles from top to bottom: SUVs sporting the VIP sticker (Range Rovers, Lexus, Landcruisers), Camrys/Sedans, Big Motorcycles, TukTuks, Motos, Cyclos, Bicyclists
6.) shopping sucks here! there is no one stop shopping or two stops or three. you have to really run around and find things in multiple places and it’s usually congested and again – no price tags when dealing in the main markets. yes there are a few mall and enclosed shops/boutiques (with price tags) but these are specialty items that cost a lot of money. plastic things we can normally buy at the 99 cent store cost an outrageous $5-$10 here.
7.) roadtrips are a bit difficult here. the roads are small and not the smoothest ride with kids. you never know when a road is under construction or under water so it’s risky to take family trips out of the city. i wish there was better more comfortable public transportation options to go in between cities and villages.
8.) no renter protection – we love our apartment but the landlords are cut throat and have no problem raising our rent. we lost all our deposit moving out of the last place because they wouldn’t let us out of the contract even if we found renters to take over. this is when one realizes it’s all about the benjamins here baby!
9.) the sun! – there’s no shade – no big trees in the park to take shelter, no canopies for the play areas – the sun is harsh and you really have to cover up or you will burn
10.) no soft tall green ‘antless’ grass - to go barefoot in, to have a picnic on, to run around on – none here in the city. the grass is sharp, hard, and weedlike – not the best for kids and no one here runs around barefoot on lawns. i miss green US grass!

all in all – we are thankful to be here and am enjoying everyday here. we feel blessed to be here right now!

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who’s image of “traditional” beauty

American Vogue – the whitest fashion magazine in the world is finally giving props to asian models. Of course, this realization comes at a time when China is rising as a economic & consumer power. With 1 billion people suddenly armed with buying power, one would hope there would be reflections of beauty beyond a white face and white body.

The only problematic notion is that these 8 asian models apparently are “redefining traditional concepts of beauty.” so are we to assume that traditional equals white, euro, western?

Check out December issue of vogue featuring a 2-page spread with these models: China’s Du Juan, Liu Wen, Bonnie Chen, and Lily Zhi; South Korea’s Hyoni Kang, So Young Kang, and Lee Hyun; and Japan’s Tao Okamoto.

The full article is here.

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Beyond Turbulence: Reflecting on the Monsoon Years

From 1992-1996 I was part of a coalition of student groups who fought for Asian American Studies and a Cultural House at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Today is the 5 year anniversary celebration of the university’s Asian American Cultural Center. I contributed the following statement to the accompanying alumni art show, to which i donated many pieces from the archives of MONSOON, our literary magazine.

Beyond Turbulence: Reflecting on the Monsoon Years

From 1992-1996, my time at UIUC proved to be my formative years. It was a time that had everything to do with my work and passion for Monsoon and the activism with the Asian American Artists Collective. The Collective saved my life at a time when I was filled with self-doubt, tackling complicated identity issues, and struggling with my worth as a budding artist. My friends in the Collective were a rag-tag bunch of vagabonds seeking alternatives to the campus’ mainstream social life and searching for a way to voice our concerns beyond what was being offered by other Asian cultural groups. We knew we were more than just artists and art enthusiasts. We knew that being an Asian person on the UIUC campus was inextricably linked to larger issues of self-determination, survival, and resistance as people of color. We knew that we would be more powerful as a collective. At the time, we had only the intuition to go with our guts and use art as a way to effect a change and ultimately strive towards visibility. We had no idea that our little collective would be instrumental in bringing about social justice for Asian Americans at UIUC. This is the legacy that I am proud to leave behind for future generations.

In my four years, I witnessed so many changes inside and outside of our group. We grew up together and became politicized in the process but not without an incredible amount of help and support from inside and outside of the APA community. We had outstanding allies which including Reverend Charlie Sweitzer with McKinley Foundation, Professor Joe Miller and the students of the anti-chief movement, Buxville Theater Company and the handful of ally artists who submitted in solidarity to our issues. As we grew to understand the needs of the Asian American student population, we also grew to understand that our group could not bring about changes alone. Coalition building amongst the leaders of the other APA groups would serve to be an essential means of expanding our readership, artist submissions, and audience. Many thanks to Oliver Ong, Vida Gosrisirikul, Reshma Saujani, Snehal Patel, Rex Lai, Divina Battung, Jeremy Bautista, Ho Chie Tsai, the women of Shakti and many others who I may have forgotten on this list.

It was an incredible amount of work publishing each Monsoon and organizing the political and artistic events of the Collective. It often took time away from our academic schoolwork, but it was always done with passion, dedication, fun and a ton of coffee (thank you Espresso Royale, Treno’s and Merry Ann’s Diner)! I am grateful for all the lessons and skills I learned with The Collective. Thank you to all my cohorts for saving my soul and instilling in me a sense of self-confidence, voice, and the unapologetic ability to kick ass!

In gratitude,
Anida Yoeu Ali
performer/writer/global agitator

MAASU 1996 Conference @ Univ of Michigan Ann Arbor

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A performance by Niqabitch

French women cause a stir in niqab and hot pants in anti-burka ban protest

By Henry Samuel in Paris
Published: 3:10PM BST 01 Oct 2010

Two French female students have made a film of the pair of them strolling through the streets of Paris in a niqab, bare legs and mini-shorts as a critique of France’s recently passed law.

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My body My dreams

I am starting a new theme here on my blogsite. I am trying to find samples of how we use performance or performance art in our everyday life.

check out this new york times article about college students using their bodies (…basically performance art) to deliver a political message. there’s something stunning about knowing the context of these bodies spelling out these particular words in a time marked by such anti-immigrant sentiment.

Students Spell Out Messages on Immigration

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Performing Gender in Aghanistan

We are always performing. Gender is a construction. The question is what happens when these “girls” hit puberty and start to develop in ways that make it harder for them to disguise their sex? and what happens when they want to stop pretending?

Read this New York Times Article on Afghan Boys are Prized, So Girls Live the Part

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9/11…In moments of crisis, positions become clear.

I wanted to share some thoughts with you as we reflect on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 attacks. This was something I started writing after 9/11/01 and recently finished as part of my manifesto. Please read and feel free to share with others.

Islam. The war on terrorism. Racial Profiling. Detainees. The Patriot Act. Suicide Bombers. Nine years ago on September 11, 2001 the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon were not the only targets. The Muslim body was not only a weapon, it had also become a clear target. I remember a friend of mine saying to me that whatever happens he would have my back. I had never even thought that I would be targeted as a Muslim woman since I did not dress or look like a “typical” Muslim, at least not the stereotypical images shown in the media. That somehow I could pass. That somehow no one would ever mistaken me for Muslim. Part of me was relieved but the other part felt guilty that I could not show more solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters who were visibly targeted all over America, shortly after 9/11. I remember other Muslim friends sharing stories of uncles who had suddenly disappeared, of mosques vandalized, social service organizations raided, and of Hijabi Muslim women harassed.  I remember reading in 2003 that hate crimes increased 1700% against anyone “perceived” to be Muslim or Arabs. It’s an unfathomable number but the equation was real. The violence against Muslims and even those perceived as “Muslims” was rooted in bigotry, fear, xenophobia and misinformation.

On 9/11 and every day after, the Muslim body is a target. The Muslim body is in crisis. This is part of my legacy as a Muslim in America living in this global economy. The position is very clear for me. I am a Muslim and now more than ever it was crucial  to take action. Now more than ever it is about standing in solidarity with the Muslim community as much as standing in opposition to all forms of terrorism, racial-profiling, fundamentalism, and oppression — and yes that means even the kind imposed by the U.S. government as much as some “Muslim” nations. My work as a performance artist in which my body is central to the work, is now more than ever an important and distinct choice. Being Muslim has become more than a cultural identity, it is a political statement! My responses have involved greater participation in the Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim communities, an internalized questioning process of a political & spiritual identity, writing poems and stories that add dimension and complexity to the image of the Muslim in America, and using my body to create performances that both question and redefine the image of the Muslim woman. Like a prayer line, my place is to stand shoulder to shoulder with other Muslims, intervening the best way I know how—through art-making.

I am urging friends, family, acquaintances and strangers to view and forward the video “1700% Project: Mistaken for Muslim.” The passion in which I wrote the above statement is what continues to fuel my work and commitment to social justice. The video is a work of art as much as it is an educational tool. The links are below:


video can also be found here:


LinkTV OCON Competition

1700% Project Website
Recent story on CNN:

Peace & Many Blessings. May all the souls taken before their time rest in peace.

Anida Yoeu Ali

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“All Terrorists Are Muslims” Except that 94% are NOT!

Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group, From 1980 to 2005, According to FBI database

check this report out. I am reposting  this from Planet Grenada’s blog.

A couple of interesting links:
From Loonwatch: All Terrorists are Muslims… Except the 94% that Aren’t summarizes an updated FBI report of terrorist acts on US soil. As you can see for yourself from the above pie graph, among the counter-stereotypical results are: 1) Only 6% of the terrorist acts on US soil in the period covered were committed by Muslims. 2) In fact, slightly more terrorist acts were committed by Jewish groups. And finally, 3) the largest category of groups associated with acts of terrorism in the US is apparently Latino! (although this includes both far-right anti-Castro terrorist groups and left-leaning pro-Puerto Rican independence groups)

Also CNN recently reported in Study: Threat of Muslim-American terrorism in U.S. exaggerated the results of a study funded by the Department of Justice which looks at how to prevent the radicalization of Muslim youth in America. The original study can be found at: Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans

And finally, Stephen M. Walt gives one of the more candid answers to the “Why Do They Hate Us?” question in his article: Why they hate us (ii): How many Muslims has the US killed in the past 30 years?

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RIP. Fashion is Dead.

R.I.P. Steve McQueen. 40 years young and one of the most daring fashion designers to grace our world. May you continue to grace catwalks in the next world with more innovation and pizazz.

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