Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart is one of many fans of the annual LunarFest celebration in his city. At the opening ceremony last weekend, Stewart talked about what makes this festival unique.
"What struck me the first time I went to the lantern festival is that it was combining Indigenous and Asian art, which you're not seeing anywhere else in the entire world," Stewart said. "That is a unique export of what we're doing here together."
That's on display at Granville Island at the free Lantern City exhibition at Ocean Art Works near the Granville Island Public Market. Called Forever Young, it runs until February 21.
Visitors will see several large lanterns covered with colourful artwork.
Indigenous Taiwanese artist Pacake Taugadhu Rukai's Lrikulau (Clouded Leopard) stands alongside Squamish artist Jody Broomfield's Honouring the Spirit of the Children, Canadian Heather Sparks's Transformation, Filipino Canadian Danvic Briones' Wind Garden, and Quw'utsun artist Charlene Johnny's sxwut'ts'uli (Hummingbird).
There's also a lantern highlighting the story of Alegria, which will be performed by Cirque du Soleil in Vancouver.
Cirque du Soleil performers also appeared at the opening ceremony.
The managing director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, Charlie Wu, said at the opening ceremony that LunarFest began in 2010 with a lantern forest along Granville Street.
"It's always been a focus for our organization to create a festival that focuses on inclusivity, diversity, and imagination," Wu said. "Back in 2019, we created a Coastal Lunar Lantern [event] acknowledging that we are on the land of the Indigenous people—and the great celebration on their unceded territory should include the Indigenous community as well as communities other than our own."
For the first time, LunarFest is including South Asian artists this year at the Lantern City exhibition in šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énḵ Square on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Jag Nagra and Sandeep Johal have each created works of art on lanterns, which will remain at that location until February 9.
This marks the first year that there's also a Lantern City exhibition at Granville Island. The general manager of Granville Island, Tom Lancaster, thanked his staff at the opening ceremony for their hard work in making this happen.
He also expressed gratitude to the artists and the LunarFest organizers.
"We are very proud that we're able to be the host for so many artistic events," Lancaster said. "We work with different producers to put on events like this."
Lancaster also pointed out that Granville Island is under federal jurisdiction and is not actually part of the City of Vancouver. The island is managed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and has its own advisory council. One of the members. Johanna Lauyanto, was present at the opening ceremony of LunarFest.
Other business groups that have partnered with LunarFest include the West End Business Improvement Association and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.
The West End is the site of the West End Wishes installation at the corner of Cardero and Robson streets.
Another speaker at the event was Minister of State for Child Care, Katrina Chen, who has been attending LunarFest events for many years.
"I'm also here as a proud Taiwanese Canadian," Chen said.
She noted that she brings her son to LunarFest to learn about the traditions, culture, and values of her country of birth, as well as the diversity of the city.
"Our community is better when we are together, when we're supporting each other, and making sure that we're working together to make our community more inclusive for all," Chen said. "I really love the theme this year that 'we are family'. We are all in this together, especially during this pandemic."
The director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, Lihsin Angel Liu, wished everyone a lucky Year of the Tiger.
"Let's get through the pandemic stronger together," she said.
Liu ended her speech by noting that one of the slogans on a T-shirt that she observed said "No more Chinese Taipei. Just Taiwan". She clearly agreed with that sentiment as many Taiwanese take offence at the Communist government of China's efforts to rename her independent island nation with a phrase made up in Beijing.
Mayor Stewart also indicated support for the island nation, which has been colonized on several occasions throughout its history, including by the Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Ming and Qing dynasties.
"It's important to show international solidarity with Taiwan," Stewart said.