Did You Eat Yet? April 2024 – Khmer New Year with Tevy Khou

Hi, I’m Tevy, a multimedia artist originally from Long Beach, CA. I also enjoy weight lifting and collecting the best pieces of clothing.

Long Beach is full of creative people making music, art, and dance. Not to mention the massive amounts of skaters. It’s the most diverse place I know of, and I am proud to be from. It’s both strange and pleasing to see Long Beach Walls start popping up. I always felt that there was always something cooking and someone finally noticed. Seeing less diverse cities outside of LB is alien to me, and it reinforces my work to feature prominently Black folks and people of color. I feel a strong connection to honor my roots, both as a Chinese-Cambodian and as a Long Beach citizen. 

The style in which I illustrate hints at the same eclectic neighborhoods you might see in my hometown. Sometimes it might be a vibrant and dynamic collage, rich with layers of diverse textures, colors, and perspectives. Other times it may be more like early foggy mornings on Ocean Blvd: a moody kaleidoscope of dark sweeping inky blacks and grays.

One of the ways I can stick to my values is built into how I draw, work, and my ethos. If you draw marginalized communities, and create work that appeals to that specific audience, then the client comes looking for you. If you possess a strong visual voice, and use your actual voice, the chips fall where they may. 

I am pro-union and believe nothing will change so long as we remain isolated from each other’s struggles. I also believe that what separates great artists from average artists is having a stance in something. That’s why it was important to me to illustrate this piece about workers across the country banning together and fighting for living wages and better working conditions. Using your voice to reflect the political landscape takes guts. Too many schools teach illustrators to be a spectator when it comes to politics, as if it doesn’t directly affect us too.

Comics and graphic novels have this superpower where you can reveal truth through fiction and present new universes of possibility. They’re another way to inspire people to be better human beings to each other. They tell the stories, struggles, and triumphs of people. I drew this comic for Blacker the Berry, a juicery owned and operated by a black man I met during a DEI workplace audit. 

Like many holidays, we celebrate Khmer New Year with food! Cambodians love a good bbq. Usually I get together with my family and a lot of my cousins to eat Khmer food prepared by little old ladies. Nothing tastes better!

In the illustration I did for the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, I drew my favorite Khmer food – foods I love to eat during new years and in the summertime. It’s like one big family reunion except with way more cousins you don’t remember. There’s corn with coconut sauce and chives, and papaya salad with meat on a stick – which are staples in any Cambodian bbq. 

It’s also a time when I reflect on my family’s histories and journeys. My parents really inspire me: they’re Khmer Rouge survivors, a genocide that killed nearly 25% of the Cambodian population. They have a thousand stories of bravery. I don’t think I’ll ever go through a tenth of what they did and what they had to sacrifice. Their strength and endurance inspire me so much.

My grandfather Yon Pich was also an inspiring figure to me. Before he passed, he was a community organizer: helping out immigrants, local businesses, and especially the arts and culture. He was also a professional Apsara dancer, and had a big influence on keeping that artform alive. I miss him very much and am deeply moved by the tremendous legacy he left behind in the Long Beach community.

Mark your calendars for May 31st – I’ll be a speaker at Queer Joy as a Digital Good!

Check out Broken Stems, a powerful comic showing how California Prisons and ICE tears families apart.

When I was little, my brother Kenny and I were actually on a Cambodian TV Show! I guess our on-stage talents had to come from somewhere!

A playlist I made called Homeland that has Khmer music from the 60’s/70’s! It also has some Dengue Fever of course. Fun fact: the singer and her mom are friends with my mom and dad. I designed the album cover as well with some family photos.

Outside of illustration, I look for inspiration that is often things that mess with your senses. Here’s a fun interactive journal style poetry to enjoy!

And before you go, grab your copy of my Khmer New Year print.

In solidarity,

  • Tevy, Artist + Brenda, Irma, Sharmin, Turner, Kari, Allison, and Leyen – the 18MR Team

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed reading our monthly newsletter, would you chip in $5 so we can keep inviting rad guest editors? 

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