Duachaka Her is a Hmong American cartoonist and illustrator who creates comics and children’s books. She spent four years at University of Wisconsin Stout where she pursued a degree in Entertainment Design with a concentration in Comics and Sequential Art. Although her parents expected her to pursue a degree in a “more feasible” career, they quickly became one of her biggest supporters when they saw her talent and passion for art.
Duachaka’s passion for art started at a young age. As a child, she was immersed in the world of anime and manga that inspired her to draw. Drawing became more than a hobby as she indulged herself in as many art classes as she could in high school. Duachaka thought about pursuing a degree in something more practical. However, with her growing passion for art and strong supporters that recognized her talent, she decided to pursue art. “I was unsure at first, but I decided to follow my passion. I thought I would give it a try and see where it takes me,” she said.
Building Community and Identity
Duachaka’s art is inspired by her internal struggle with being a Hmong American. “I lived in a predominantly white neighborhood. When we had culture days at school, I wouldn’t wear my Hmong clothes. I was embarrassed about being Hmong. I cared a lot about other people’s opinions,” she said. However, with encouragement from her professors and realizing the importance of representation in media, she began to embrace her identity through her art.
In her senior year, she illustrated and wrote The Collection, a personal memoir about her identity crisis. “It’s important to have stories where the main character is Hmong. It makes you feel important,” she emphasized. The Collection is available to purchase on her website at duachakaher.com.
To Duachaka, art goes beyond a creative expression of identity. Art is used to create a sense of belonging in a community that goes unrecognized. Duachaka began conducting interviews with local Hmong and Asian American artists to create community, gain inspiration, and help artists stay connected. She also gave a shoutout to her Hmong artist Facebook group (HManganime), “Everyone should surround themselves with supportive people. Our little [art] community helps me stay motivated and focused.”
She hopes that her art can create a positive impact on the Hmong community. “The goal of my art is to create a story that connects with others who are facing the same situation I faced. I also create art for myself because it’s important to see yourself in art. I write stories I wish I could have seen when I was growing up,” she concluded.
Advice for Aspiring Artists
Duachaka’s advice to aspiring artists is to create authentic art, “Your art style will come to you naturally. Your art will evolve and change to reflect who you are.” She stresses the importance of self-worth, “Value your progress as an artist. [Art] doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.” As artists venture to collaborate with others, she suggests they take precautions, “Don’t sell yourself short. Protect your art. Think of the long term impacts before you make any decisions.”
She hopes to see more Hmong artists flourish and share their talents with the community. She urges aspiring artists to believe in their work and take initiative to share their art with others, “If you are waiting to put your art out there, just do it. Ask for help and guidance and do it.”
Due to COVID, Duachaka has taken time off to focus on her family and daytime job. Despite the long break, she feels even more inspired to create art again. Duachaka is currently working on a new project and is excited to share more details about it with her audience in the near future.
See more of her work at https://duachakaher.com/