Thursday, 31 July 2014


L-R: artist Vu Can, writer Sadiad Youssouf, singer Denise King,
writer and medical doctor Caroline Vu, and writer and artist Alecia McKenzie.
Pictured below is Nam Tran Nguyen (Photo courtesy of Vu Can)
Despite the sweltering heat, spectators enjoyed a memorable evening of literature, art and jazz on Paris’ Left Bank last weekend, when a multicultural group of artists presented an unusual show before a large crowd.

The event, at the Espace Kaméléon gallery, featured a book launch, bilingual readings by three remarkable authors, an exhibition of fascinating paintings and some outstanding jazz improv.

Canadian-Vietnamese author and medical doctor Caroline Vu co-organized the event, launching her novel Palawan Story in France after its publication and presentation in Montreal.

Jamaican author and artist Alecia McKenzie (SWAN’s editor) read from her novel Sweetheart, winner of the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Caribbean region, in a joint performance with American jazz singer Denise King, a master of improvisation. And Parisian writer Sadiad Youssouf read excerpts from her unpublished works of fiction.

In Palawan Story, Vu traces a sinuous path through the impermanence of identity as a young girl is sent off on a perilous boat trip to escape Vietnam and start a new life in North America. Vu says the inspiration for the book came from her desire to explore issues of memory, and the story delves into how characters survive traumatic experiences by burying recollections in the recesses of their minds.

McKenzie’s novel deals with complicated relationships, love and art, against the backdrop of the Caribbean and New York. Her vivid, concise, and direct style in Sweetheart grips the reader's attention with skill and humor as various characters reveal their ties to a famous Jamaican artist who has disappeared.

For Youssouf, who is of African and Vietamese descent, her childhood experiences in Djibouti inform her manuscripts, enthralling readers with rich, indelible scenes of Africa.

Artist Nam Tran Nguyen (photo by Vu Can)
The authors were joined by the Paris-based Vietnamese-French calligrapher Vu Can and prize-winning painter Nam Tran Nguyen who, along with McKenzie and her daughter, exhibited artwork that filled the gallery with colour.

The paintings, in a variety of media including oil and ink, were an integral part of this jazz-lit-art show, which King closed out with a superb a capella performance.