The managing director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, Charlie Wu, says he wants every one of his company’s LunarFest Vancouver celebrations to have a purpose.
That’s certainly on display with a series of events and displays ringing in the Lunar New Year. To bring in the Year of the Tiger, the theme is “Together, Stronger!”.
“This year, we want to take it in a different direction than we have done in the past,” Wu tells the Straight in an interview over coffee on the patio of the Prado Cafe near Granville Island. “It will be a celebration for everyone, not just communities like the Chinese or the Taiwanese or Koreans and Vietnamese.”
Wu emphasizes that he appreciates the way individual Asian countries embrace the Lunar New Year. However, he feels it’s important to make this year’s celebration even more inclusive in the face of the pandemic. To help accomplish that, there are four different destinations for this year’s LunarFest Vancouver, each appealing to the sensibilities of local residents.
Festivities begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday (January 29) with a workshop for children at Granville Island, following the opening ceremony for LunarFest. According to Wu, there will also be a street team from Cirque du Soleil on the island in advance of its March performances of Alegria in Vancouver.
On February 1, the Vancouver Zion Mission Choir, which originated in the local Korean community in 1982, will perform at the Orpheum with the Harmonia Orchestra. This show will also be available online.
“They will be performing pieces that you don’t normally hear in a Lunar New Year celebration,” Wu says.
Then there’s an installation called West End Wishes celebrating Lunar New Year at the corner of Cardero and Robson streets. And the Lantern City exhibition, done in collaboration with the Society of We Are Canadians Too, returns to šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énḵ Square (north plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery) from Thursday (January 27) to February 9.
The Lantern City exhibition will feature works by two high-profile South Asian artists in Vancouver, Jag Nagra and Sandeep Johal, and nonbinary artist Paige Bowman, which will be murals wrapped around giant cylinders. Two other large pillars on the site will feature works from the Red Paper Series by one of Taiwan’s most famous artists, Hung Tung, who pioneered the postmodernist movement in the island nation before he died in 1987.
Wu tells the Straight that Hung didn’t even begin painting until he was about 50 years old, making him a really late bloomer.
“His work is very, very colourful,” Wu says, “and because of these colours, his work is seen as spiritual as well.”
Another exhibition of lanterns will be at Granville Island from January 29 to February 21 in an exhibition called Forever Young. Coast Salish artist Jody Broomfield’s Honouring the Spirit of the Children and Taiwanese Indigenous Rukai artist Pacake Taugadhu’s Lrikulau are two of the large murals there.
Lrikulau features the famous Formosan clouded leopard, which is believed to have gone extinct (though there were alleged sightings in 2018).
Other lanterns at Granville Island will feature art by Heather Sparks, Quw’utsun muralist Charlene Johnny, and Filipino Canadian painter Danvic Briones.
The lanterns at both locations will be accompanied by Taiwanese composer Chao-Ming Tung’s “Woven Melodies”, which incorporates the pipa, a traditional Han instrument, performed by Hui-Kuan Lin. The song was created for this year’s LunarFest.
All of this is in addition to online art exhibits, crafts distributed to schoolchildren, and virtual programs, including a puppet-making show, fortune-telling, and a screening of the film Emergence: Out of the Shadows, celebrating queer activists with Sher Vancouver.