Legacy of Asian-Canadian literary pioneer Jim Wong-Chu to be spotlighted in Vancouver exhibit

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      Vancouver may have lost one of its influential Asian Canadian literary figures but his legacy continues to be remembered, honoured, and celebrated.

      The Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, the University of British Columbia, and Emily Carr University of Art and Design are launching an exhibition about the life and work of local Asian-Canadian poet, editor, historian, and activist Jim Wong-Chu.

      Wong-Chu was born in Hong Kong on January 28, 1949, and came to Canada in 1953.

      He attended the Vancouver School of Art (which is now known as Emily Carr University of Art and Design) from 1975 to 1981.

      Although he worked as a Canada Post letter-carrier, the pioneering Wong-Chu went on to become a driving force in nurturing, promoting, and advocating for Asian-Canadian culture and talent in the arts.

      In 1990s, he was a cofounder of the Asian Canadian Performing Arts Resource and became one of the founders of the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, which helped numerous Asian-Canadian writers launch their careers in writing, editing, and publishing. The workshop also launched a newsletter which transformed into Ricepaper magazine, devoted to Asian-Canadian literature.

      He compiled works from Chinese-Canadian writers and poets for the 1991 literary anthology Many-Mouthed Birds. Other anthologies he worked on included Swallowing Clouds: An Anthology of Chinese-Canadian Poetry (1999), Strike the Wok: A New Chinese-Canadian Anthology (2003), and AlliterAsian: Twenty Years of Ricepaper Magazine (2015). 

      In 1996, he helped found the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS) to showcase the diversity of Asian Canadian culture. VAHMS launched the month-long ExplorAsian Festival to mark Asian Heritage Month in Canada.

      Sadly, Wong-Chu died on July 11, 2017.

      Jim Wong-Chu: Iconic | Asian | Canadian, curated by Jennifer Dickieson, will run from October 10 to November 15 on the second level of UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (1961 East Mall, UBC).

      The exhibit will feature photos, posters, manuscripts, and other materials from Wong-Chu’s life and works.

      An exhibition launch event will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday (October 10) in the Sikine Room (Room 260) of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

      A special event will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. on October 19 at Emily Carr University featuring scheduled guests reading Wong-Chu’s poetry from his 1986 book Chinatown Ghosts along with their own work, as well as an open mic session. 

      Details about the exhibition and its related events are available at the ExplorAsian website.