With Vancouver's sizeable Asian Canadian population and position on the Pacific Rim, Asian Heritage Month provides an annual opportunity for citizens to explore and reflect upon the role that Asian identity and culture plays in our multicultural city.
May was officially designated as Asian Heritage Month in Canada by the federal government in 2002. Vancouver's Asian Heritage Month was officially launched in Vancouver at a special ceremony held at Vancouver City Hall on April 30. Mayor Gregor Robertson, Vancouver city councillors Geoff Meggs, Kerry Jang, Tony Tang, Adriane Carr, and Raymond Louie, and Musqueam councillor Wade Grant (who is of both Musqueam and Chinese heritage) all attended the event.
The Vancouver Korean Dance Society opened the ceremony with a traditional dance performance.
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society director Mita Naidu, who emceed the event, provided some context for the month by discussing the term Asian Canadian.
"There's a growing social consciousness about Asian Canadians that we're all in it together….Local-born Canadians of Asian descent have really been able to forge a strong sense of pride in reclaiming the Asian Canadian label and explore the meanings of cultural identity."
While the terms Asian or Asian Canadian encompass a wide range of identities, Naidu says she sees this as an area for potential. "If this Asian identity feels kind of loose or undefined to you, in my opinion, that's not evidence of vulnerability. It's actually a sign of opportunity."
VAHMS will kick off its 16th annual explorASIAN festival with The Magical Encounter on Friday (May 4) at 7 p.m. at SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 West Hastings). (A matinee show will be held on Saturday [May 5] at 2 p.m.)
This gala event will feature a mélange of culturally diverse entertainment, ranging from Persian ballet by Pars National Ballet and traditional Japanese drumming and dance by Tetsu Taiko and TomoeArts to contemporary dance by Yvonne Ng from Toronto and contemporary storytelling by Bernice Hune.
The Friday show will also include tributes by community leaders to the late Milton Wong, a philanthropist and former chancellor of Simon Fraser University, and will include a short film about him commissioned by the Laurier Institution and produced by the Vancouver Asian Film Festival Society.
ExplorASIAN events will be held throughout the month and at various locations around Metro Vancouver (visit the website for full details).
Naidu explained that VAHMS intentionally focused on the arts as a means for cross-cultural communication. "By creating a unique space for both the local born and the first-generation Canadians from different parts of the world, to share their arts, their realities, their histories, VAHMS serves to break down these cultural silos, and to build a more connected, multicultural society that engages in new conversations…in new ideas."
Mayor Gregor Robertson talked about the significance of Asian Heritage Month in our city, our city's role in multicultural development, and made an official declaration for AHM.
Korean counsul general Yeon Ho Choi also made a short speech about the importance of sharing cultures.
Shan-E-Punjab closed the event with an vibrant dance.
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