Laneways and lanterns light up for Lunar Festival

City of Sydney

Lunar lanterns illuminating Sydney’s central boulevard, laneway festivals bringing the city to life, artworks transforming the streets into open-air galleries and dragon boats once again racing in Darling Harbour will herald the Year of the Tiger.

The City of Sydney’s Lunar Festival brings together artists, performers, restaurateurs and multicultural communities to mark the start of a new lunar year, and welcome people back to the heart of the city.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the Lunar Festival will host more than 80 events over 16 days to celebrate the auspicious Year of the Tiger.

“This is the Year of the Water Tiger, a traditional symbol of strength, bravery and for chasing away evil,” the Lord Mayor said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to embrace that spirit and strive for a better 2022 for our residents, visitors, creative talent and businesses who have all done it tough over the past two years.

“For more than two decades, this internationally recognised event has played a vital role in unifying Sydney, strengthening cultural ties and supporting local artists, and I’m sure it will do so again this year.

“We’re giving Sydneysiders something to celebrate, while creating opportunities for local businesses, especially in Chinatown, the traditional heart of Lunar New Year celebrations.

“While we must be cautious given ongoing health concerns, our outdoor activations allow people to get out of the house and enjoy what Sydney has to offer, safely. By closing off streets and transforming them into destinations, we’re creating the space for people to support local businesses and re-engage with their community.

“I know visitors are going to once again enjoy this evening’s Lunar Lanes festivities, stroll down George Street to take in the delightful lunar lanterns and embrace the wonderful new artwork by local artist Susan Chen that has transformed Dixon Street Mall into an immersive celebration of the Year of the Tiger.”

The Dixon Street lunar artwork installation includes a lantern curtain strung the length of the Chinatown mall, tiger designs wrapped around the street’s trees and tiger image decals dotted along the pavement.

Sydney artist Susan Chen said her artwork was inspired by her own experience as a Chinese-Australian growing up in Sydney.

“My parents arrived in Sydney in the late 70s and opened a restaurant here in Chinatown with my grandfather. It was wonderful to have the chance to create a lunar artwork in an area I feel a real connection with,” Ms Chen said.

“In Chinese culture tigers are traditionally portrayed as strong, powerful and fierce creatures. But given how the pandemic has turned the world upside down, I wanted to show the creature’s gentler side.

“Tigers can be graceful, calm and beautiful. I wanted to bring the idea of yin and yang to the display. This is about finding equilibrium in the chaos. Everyone’s life has been turned upside down and I wanted to find calm and balance, while presenting the water tiger through traditional vases and urns of Chinese culture.

“I hope the display draws people back into the area and gets them into the local shops and restaurants.

“It’s been tough on so many levels – economically and the everyday racism that blames Asians for the pandemic has been so confronting for Asian Australians. I hope this goes someway to creating a sense of unity and hope for the future.”

Another artwork transforming Chinatown is the 100 Wishes Quilts installation that is the culmination of artworks created by a host of young Sydneysiders.

Coordinated by The Haymarket Institute, creative director Darren Kong said the artwork concept was inspired by a tradition from northern China.

“In welcoming and celebrating a new life, it is a custom to invite family and friends to come together to make a Bai Jia Bei, a 100 good wishes quilt. Each person will contribute a patch of cloth that goes into a quilt and a memory notebook with wishes for the child,” Mr Kong explained.

“The quilt symbolises luck, energy, and good wishes from all the families and friends who contributed the fabric. The quilt is then passed down from generation to generation.

“In honour of this tradition, the artworks of children celebrating their memories of Chinatown have been transformed into six modern-day artworks by Sydney graphic artist Annie Wu and printed onto fabrics. These printed designs will be recycled into tote bags and given to local businesses to share with their customers.”

On 29 January, the streets and laneways of Chinatown will become a hub of family fun for Lunar Lanes, with roving performers, delicious food, DJs, LED lion and dragon dancers and a night-time concert from 5pm to 10pm.

23 larger-than-life lunar lanterns representing the 12 animal signs of the traditional lunar zodiac will line George Street and stand guard in Chinatown from 29 January to 13 February.

The 2022 Sydney Lunar Festival attractions also include:

· Welcome to Koreatown, a one-night street festival in Wilmot Street, celebrating local culture, food and artists on Saturday 12 February from 5pm to 11pm

· the Lunar Spectacular Show featuring an array of community performers bringing Town Hall to life on Saturday 12 February from 10.30am

· the city’s streets turned into a giant art gallery with banners featuring the work of five local Asian-Australian artists, who share what the Year of the Tiger means for them in their artworks

· the famed dragon boat races, back for a spectacular weekend of competition in Darling Harbour’s Cockle Bay on Saturday 5 February and Sunday 6 February

· roving street performers and lion dancers taking to the streets of the city and Chinatown

· three hand-painted lunar gateways on Alfred Street celebrating Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese traditional architecture

The Lord Mayor said Covid-19 safety plans will be in place for all City of Sydney Lunar Festival events and NSW Health regulations will be followed.

“Many events and programs across NSW continue to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent surge in case numbers. As we deal with the impacts of the latest Omicron variant, we will work with the NSW Government to ensure the event is managed in line with public health orders.

“We strongly urge people attending our events to be vaccinated, wear a mask and practise safe distancing. If you are feeling unwell, please stay home.”

The vast range of events, dining specials and entertainment to mark the Lunar New Year and Year of the Tiger are featured on the City of Sydney’s What’s On website.

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