Collective Success: Checking in with the Banana Leaf Collective

Brenda Tran is decompressing with some post-event relief. Banana Leaf Collective, a group of design and media creatives of which she’s a member, just hosted their first multi-disciplinary showcase at their cozy co-op studio above Dangerous Man Brewing in Northeast Minneapolis. 

The evening—part party, part fundraiser for the studio—included a lowkey mix of performances and visual arts. While not their biggest or boldest undertaking, the act of bringing together such a diverse and talented group, and then also keeping everyone entertained, was enough to make the hard-working membership appreciate a day off. 

When Tran talks about the event, it’s as much about the work before, during, and after the shindig, and how it’s par for their course. Banana Leaf Collective started last year as a video call between what Tran cheekily referred to as “early career” folks working in design and media that started thinking about sharing office and studio space, and pooling resources as a response to what the young membership sees as hyper-individualized and precarious gig work culture. 

“So many people said ‘I’m not a creative, I can’t join’, but they were organizers—they identified more as ‘cultural workers’ than ‘creatives’. And that’s a political move.” 

Also political? Creating their first fantastic zine that tells stories like member Blongsha Hang taking up gymnastics as an adult and a photography essay, Snapshots from Ghana. That same sort of intentional diversity for their first zine issue, which Tran edited, made their event similarly sundry.

How can such a mix of people and mediums be held together? Enter the banana leaves. “Banana leaves are culturally significant in many different cultures, from Vietnam to West Africa, like our membership,” says Tran. “In SE Asia culture good things always come wrapped in banana leaves.”    

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