Mrs. Chang is a 96-year old elder who calls Vancouver’s Chinatown her home.
In a neighbourhood filled with poh-pohs (Chinese grandmothers), it can be frustrating to walk around Vancouver’s rapidly changing Chinatown and see new restaurants, condominium projects, cafés, and art galleries that present foreign façades and possibly unwelcoming spaces for the elderly generation in Chinatown.
Most elderly Chinese walk along the sidewalks a bit bewildered-looking at the changes and feeling like they can’t enter these new developing spaces in Chinatown.
Mrs. Chang, however, took it into her own hands to walk into Centre A on Georgia Street and reprimand those inside for not having adequate signage to welcome in the community.
Tyler Russell, Centre A’s newly appointed director of the only local public gallery dedicated to Asia-Pacific art, received Mrs. Chang’s wrath and decided to make it central to his curatorial debut at Centre A.
For the last month, Russell has successfully curated one of the most interactive exhibits this neighbourhood has received to date. “Mʼgoi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude” is a community-based interactive exhibit highlighting two artist-poets: Lydia Kwa and Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon. The exhibit engages themes of cross-cultural and intergenerational conviviality in the changing cultural landscape of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Kwa’s contribution included print-art and activities around the closure of Ho Sun Hing, Canada’s first Chinese print shop.
Lennon’s work produced a Cantonese-language Saturday school-class, taught by Zoe Lam, which empowered community members to engage in Cantonese with local merchants and learn Chinese culture through language, a barrier some might have to interacting with the old Chinatown.
Throughout the last month, Centre A has also hosted innovative non-profit and community organizations, which are playing key roles in re-energizing Chinatown. The Hua Foundation, benevolent associations like Yee Fung Toy and the Mah Society, and hosted film screenings by emerging film-makers at UBC and BCIT have been just a few of the participants at the exhibit.
Since “Mʼgoi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude”, several other galleries and stores have introduced Chinese-language on their storefronts. Maybe Mrs. Chang and other Chinese elders will be able to enter these new spaces with more ease and hopefully the new businesses in Chinatown will welcome them.
The “Mʼgoi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude” closes on June 14. Everyone is welcome to come interact with the space.