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Manfred Olsen Planetarium's 'Asian Universe' program goes beyond stargazing

Courtesy of the Manfred Olsen Planetarium
The Manfred Olsen Planetarium at UW-Milwaukee is highlighting the Asian universe through stargazing, poetry and dance.

The Manfred Olsen Planetarium at UW-Milwaukee is a great place for stargazing and learning more about the night sky. But the night sky looks different depending on where in the globe you reside, and Friday the planetarium is highlighting the Asian universe.

This program goes beyond stargazing and includes storytelling through Hmong poetry and highlighting different dance styles.

Sheng Vang, the Southeast Asian American Student Center manager at UW-Milwaukee, says the stargazing portion, led by Lake Effect astronomy contributor Jean Creighton, will take place in Xieng Khouang province in Loas.

"As a Hmong woman myself, it'll be really cool to see the perspective of what our ancestors have seen," she notes.

The storytelling portion will focus not on the constellations found in the night sky, but through Paj Huam — a rhythmic, distinctive style of Hmong poetry performed by associate lecturer Tong Yang.

"The topic of his Paj Huam will be about the love of mothers, and this will be very significant because mothers play such a vital role in the Asian household," Vang explains.

Dance is also an important aspect of many different Asian cultures, and Vang has been working with students from South Division High School who will be performing three types of cultural dances: Indian, Lao and Karen.

With so many cultures being highlighted in the Asian Universe program, Vang says it's important for us to expand on what is considered "our" universe. "I’m hoping that this program will open the eyes of everyone to see that there are so many different cultures and lifestyles in Asia. And it’s really important for everyone to see that and learn how to embrace that," she says.

The Asian Universe program takes place at the Manfred Olsen Planetarium April 8 from 6:30 - 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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