These pieces were commissioned for the months July, August, and September of the 2019 Makers Artists United (MAU) Calendar, an artist produced and community driven publication.
Using repetition and multiples, the digitally-collaged photographs touch on Vancouver Chinatown’s historical moments and cultural celebrations, as they relate to their respective months. The images further respond aesthetically to the diverse layers and traces that emerge to me as a female street photographer and flâneuse continually exploring the neighbourhood, where my studio has been based since early 2018.
July: Chinatown history after Humiliation Day (we still protest)
July 1st was formerly referred to as “Humiliation Day” by the Chinese-Canadian community as celebration of the Confederation coincided with enforcement of the Chinese Immigration Act. Photographing the designs and text (translated as “Chinatown history”) found on the base of many lamp posts in Chinatown, the inverted maple leafs are a nod to a history of protest by the community who refused to celebrate Canada Day and would typically fly the Canadian flag at half-mast. This piece also acknowledges Canada’s ongoing genocide against Indigenous communities via the work of activists such as Colby Tootoosis from Poundmaker First Nation, a flag carrier who reversed the flag at a pow wow ceremony in 2013.
August: Placemarkers in a linguistic landscape
This month in history in 2002, the Chinatown Millennium Gate was officially opened. The Gate is a recognizable placemarker in the neighbourhood and is similarly installed in Chinatowns worldwide as a symbolic entryway and to celebrate the community. This work turned its lens on to shopfront and street placards — distinct elements that are also uniquely characteristic of 溫哥華唐人街 (Vancouver’s Chinatown) — in order to pay homage to these fading relics.
September: In honour of the Moon, the harvest, a parallel food network
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a celebration of gratitude for the harvest. Fruits, vegetables, and tea traditionally eaten during this time were purchased from local merchants. This piece further honours the history of parallel food systems in the Chinatown community, where Chinese-Canadian farmers and green grocers challenged dominant channels of food-production and distribution.
The limited-edition 2019 MAU calendar showcased the work of local artists Janet Wang, Hillary Webb, Erica Wilk, Clare Yow, and Marlene Yuen. It also featured community contributed food recipes, neighbourhood event listings, and highlighted local histories and individuals whose contributions have helped shape Chinatown’s rich history. Calendars were printed by Moniker Press, a local publishing studio specializing in risograph printing.
Makers Artists United is a long-term artist-initiated project by visual artist Elisa Yon. The project aims to re-imagine the way souvenirs function as objects and as vehicles to examine lesser-known local histories, cultural identity and issues affecting the future of Vancouver’s Chinatown.