Activities to Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

The month of May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to recognize the contributions and cultural influences of this diverse...


The month of May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to recognize the contributions and cultural influences of this diverse community in the United States. While this has been a challenging year for everyone, it’s worth noting that the pandemic has been a particularly difficult time for the Asian-American community.

For the final At Home section, this page of activities looks back not only on the past year, but also on the childhood influences that will shape how we will return to the world. From a craft that uses paper to create beautiful imagery following the methodology of a traditional Japanese art form, to a cryptogram that reveals a quotation from an award-winning poet and novelist, to a Filipino game that you can create with just a few household supplies, these activities are designed to provide opportunities for joy, discovery, nostalgia and connection.

In the words of Ling Ma, the Chinese American author of “Severance,” a novel about a pandemic that originated in China and spread to America, “Let us return, then, as we do in times of grief, for the sake of pleasure but mostly for the need for relief, to art.”

This artwork is inspired by a style of Japanese playing cards called Hanafuda, or Hwatu when used to play the Korean game Go-Stop, and also by the ancient Indian game that came to be known as Snakes and Ladders. Cut out these cards and arrange them like a jigsaw puzzle to form a completed artwork. In a Hanafuda deck, cards contain imagery of nature representing different months of the year.

Once the cards are placed in the correct sequence, you will see eight butterfly trails (dotted lines), and each butterfly trail has a letter on each end and a butterfly on one end that will help you decode the cryptogram below. If, for example, there’s a “Z” at the end of the trail and a “Y” with the butterfly, for every “Z” in the cryptogram text, you replace it with an “Y” to decipher the quotation.

The first pair, L -> A, has been provided to you to start. Not every letter is given, so you’ll have to use your cryptogram solving skills to decode the rest!

Download a printable version of this activity here.

Chigiri-e (pronounced chee-ghee-ri-eh) is a paper craft from Japan dating back to the Heian period (794 to 1185). Often paired with calligraphy, it involves tearing colored paper into shapes and creating images that resemble watercolors. Using handmade paper is an important part of traditional chigiri-e art, but here you can use your newspaper.

1. Emboss card stock: Trace the template onto the card-stock paper using an embossing stylus or a pencil. The goal is to outline the picture so you have a guide for where to glue the colored paper.

2. Trace and tear: Trace a shape from the template onto newspaper, tissue paper or other types of paper you may want to use. Tear the paper along the traced shape; you can retrace the lines with a stylus for easier tearing.

3. Glue onto card stock: For easier positioning (and less mess), add water to glue and use a brush to apply the glue directly onto card stock. Use a pair of tweezers to position the torn paper.

5. When you are done, share your artwork, frame it or start your next creation.

Tips

  • Using an embossing stylus makes tearing easier.

  • Remember, though, this isn’t an exercise in precision. The imperfect nature of the torn paper is what gives the artwork texture.

  • Don’t be afraid to improvise; if you find bare spots, just glue small pieces of paper to add more dimension.

  • You can also tear paper into tiny pieces first and glue onto the card stock, like coloring in a coloring book.

  • Handmade paper, as well as paper with gradient colors or texture, will give your art a water color-like texture.

Sipà is a Filipino game related to the Southeast Asian sport sepak takraw, or kick volleyball. Sipà, which means “kick” in Tagalog, is the name of the game itself, as well as the word for the ball. It’s part of a rich tradition of children playing outdoor games, especially in urban and rural areas.

Typically, made from a lead washer and cloth, this version uses common household materials to make your ball.

Supplies

1. Cut the sheet of newspaper in half. Fold one sheet in half lengthwise and crosswise, and cut along these lines to get four pieces.

2. Stack three of these pieces (this keeps it more aerodynamic). Place a small coin in the center, bundle the paper, and secure it with string or a rubber band.

3. Cut the top of the paper into thin strips. You can use the fourth sheet to catch any scraps and trim the top to make it more even.

How to play:

  • Go outside

  • Kick the sipà using your feet or legs (below the knees), similar to a hacky sack.

  • Players score based on the number of times they can kick the sipà without it touching the ground.

  • Variant 1: Players take turns kicking the sipà as many times as possible; the player with the highest score wins.

  • Variant 2: Form two teams. Players take turns passing the sipà. If the ball touches the ground, then the opposing team earns a point. The team with the highest score wins.

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