Centre A fosters intergenerational and intercultural space for Chinatown

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      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.

      Melissa Fong is a PhD candidate in planning and geography at the University of Toronto. Her areas of research include neighbourhood change and equity. She maintains a blog on municipal politics, feminism, and anti-racism issues at melissafong.ca.




      Jun 10, 2014 at 11:42am

      Sounds great!

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      Jun 12, 2014 at 1:47am

      No business in Vancouver has any obligation to post signage in any foreign language. So arrogant of these immigrants!

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      Jun 13, 2014 at 11:17pm

      Gregg, what and who are you referring to when you say "any foreign language" or "these immigrants"? Are you parroting tired, ignorant racist refrains? Or are you sincerely suggesting that we adopt the First Nations languages of the localities colonised? If the former, you need to know that for more than a century Cantonese and Toisan have been more local than English or French in Vancouver's Chinatown.

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      Todd Wong

      Jul 31, 2014 at 4:51pm

      This is a great contribution and very interactive. It is important to get past traditional stereotypes and cultural barriers. Well Done!

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