UBC Okanagan marks Asian Heritage Month with virtual events

Asian Heritage Month graphic. Artwork by Meg Yamamoto.

Artwork by Meg Yamamoto.

Activities aim to foster a greater understanding of Asian cultures and communities

At this difficult time for communities, UBC Okanagan and its community partners are marking Asian Heritage month this May as a moment for coming together.

“Asian Heritage Month comes to us amidst significant adversities: the unprecedented rise of anti-Asian racism, the shadow of the unrelenting pandemic, the humanitarian crises in Asia and so on,” says Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president academic at UBC Okanagan. “And yet, even in the face of such daunting realities, we see communities coming together, raising their voices and offering support to one another, within and across borders. It is truly inspiring.”

In that spirit of coming together, this is the first time UBC Okanagan is hosting the Asian Heritage Month initiative. Throughout May, the university will feature invited artists and performers, virtual tours in collaboration with the Kelowna Museums Society, and presentations by students and faculty on Asian language, identity and heritage.

“Many people are surprised when they hear that Kelowna once had a Chinatown and they have an appetite to learn more,” says Linda Digby, executive director of the Kelowna Museums Society. “Our virtual tours offer a rare glimpse into this important chapter of community history, experienced through the perspective of East Asian university students today.”

Tony Yu, a fourth-year student in the UBCO’s performing arts program, says local artists are looking forward to sharing their work with the community.

“In this first-ever Asian Heritage Month event, there are 10 artists involved that will showcase different mediums of art,” he says. “The event gives Asian artists of Kelowna an excellent platform to promote their art as well as express their personal stories to a much wider audience.”

The community is invited – and encouraged – to attend the series of virtual events and learn and reflect together.

Upcoming events

May 6

Opening Event: Join Canada’s former Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah for a poetry reading, followed by a reading of Stories of Care – stories of Filipino care workers and the impact of the pandemic on them, including stories of employment, unemployment, family, grief, healing, community and resilience. Elder Larry Grant, who is of mixed Chinese and Musqueam ancestry will open the event.

May 12

Chinese Voices of the Okanagan: A Showcase. This event discusses linguistic diversity amongst members of the Chinese community in Kelowna – including those who trace their heritage to mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau – and showcases a website featuring community folksongs and folk stories. The event enhances understanding of the complexity of heritage languages and identities in the Chinese-Canadian diaspora, and to foster connections between UBC Okanagan students and community members.

May 13

The Story of Bhangra: Gurdeep Pandher, an internationally renowned artist based in the Yukon, will narrate the story of Bhangra, a popular dance form with deep connections to the land and people of Punjab, India. Born into a farming family in the village of Siahar in Punjab, Pandher brings together artists from all backgrounds to promote inclusivity and diversity. Pandher’s works have been published by many international art and media organizations including BBC News, CBC and The Globe and Mail. Pandher’s presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

May 20

Rediscovering Chinatown: Rediscover the history of Kelowna’s Chinatown and the cultural forces that drove its creation on a virtual tour of the Okanagan Heritage Museum. UBC Okanagan students and museum staff will help tell this story in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

May 26

UBC Okanagan Artists Showcase: An event featuring the work of UBC Okanagan students and faculty in performance, creative writing, media and visual arts while they negotiate the complexities of Asian experiences, identities and heritages. A discussion and Q&A session will follow.

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