This Vancover pandemic street art showcases pride in Asian men

While most queer-related festivals around the world have been canceled or moved online this year because of the COVID pandemic, one that’s going ahead is Pride in Chinatown in Vancouver, Canada. The event launched on Saturday (August, 8th) and will run until September, 7th.

Now in its third year, Pride in Chinatown aims to promote pan-Asian queer artists in the city’s historical and vibrant Chinatown district.

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Pride in Chinatown began as a singular event in 2018 but has now grown to a month-long series of installations. The 2020 event is going ahead because the work is installed in various locations throughout Chinatown including storefronts, windows, walls and hoardings for small groups to experience – perfect for these socially-isolated, pandemic times!

In fact, the pandemic has shaped this year’s festival in different ways. Because COVID-19 was first identified in China, it has prompted widespread racism against people of an Asian origin. This included Vancouver, where the distinctive lion statues at the entrance to Chinatown were vandalized with racist graffiti in May.

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Organizers for this year’s event say Pride in Chinatown, “is not only a bold gesture claiming Chinatown as a safe space for LGBTQ2+ people and allies, but is a rebuttal against the recent acts of racist aggression and discrimination that included the wave of anti-Asian graffiti amplified by COVID-19.”

Pride in Chinatown launched with an event at the district's Millennium Gate on Saturday
L-R: Maiden Chinatown, Dinah Achjadi, David Ng, Christian Jones, Ho Tam, Kara Juku and Jay Cabalu pictured at Millennium Gate (Photo: Paul Wong)

Saturday’s launch, held in conjunction with the local group, Youth Collaborative for Chinatown, included a large, anonymous floral installation at the region’s Millennium Gate to send out a message of love.

The artistic director and curator of Pride in Chinatown is Paul Wong. This year’s event features eight different artists. It includes ‘Love is Love’ vinyl art by Candie Tanaka in the window of Propaganda Coffee (209 E Pender Street), David Ng’s ‘Comrade(ry)’ print installation on the Lim Building (525 Carrall Street), and Jay Cabalu’s Fortune Diptych on the iconic Fortune Sound Club (147 E Pender Street), among others.

Jay Cabalu’s Fortune Diptych
Jay Cabalu’s Fortune Diptych (Photo: Pride in Chinatown)

The work easiest to spot will be street posters pasted throughout the district by drag performer Maiden China. The series, entitled Quarantine, was created during the early days of the pandemic. Maiden China created a different look daily, using whatever materials they had to hand, and uploaded the photos to Instagram. These images have now been turned into street posters.

Some of Maiden China's street posters
Some of Maiden China’s street posters (Photo: Pride in Chinatown)

Maiden China, who has family ties to the area, told CBC that they initially approached three local businesses to see if they would present a composite collage of the images in their storefront. However, they were met with resistance.

“People are very hesitant to give space that’s very visible, in the fear that someone is going to vandalize their business,” they said. “That is a very homophobic thing in and of itself.”

Candie Tanaka in front of his 'Love is Love' vinyl artwork on the window of Propaganda Coffee
Candie Tanaka in front of his ‘Love is Love’ vinyl artwork on the window of Propaganda Coffee (Photo: Supplied)

Wong told CBC, “The idea of Pride in Chinatown [is] to have a presence. Chinatown has been segregated through discrimination and racism and fear. Chinatown has evolved from being very conservative and being very repressed … and homophobic.”

Local businesses and organizations supporting the arts festival, including the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and On Main Gallery, will have a Pride in Chinatown ‘welcome’ sticker visible on their windows/doors.

To check out a walking-tour map of the artwork, check out Pride in Chinatown.

Related: Asia’s biggest queer art exhibition opens in Bangkok 


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Today was installation day for “Comrade(ry)”; my vinyl installation for this years Pride in Chinatown, which features a series of site specific visual art pieces all over Chinatown. You can find “Comrade(ry)” on the windows of @valucoop , located in the Lim Association building in chinatown (525 Carrall St). The piece references a racist archival newspaper article from the Vancouver Province in 1907, about a public bath built for indentured Chinese labourers who were building the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The piece plays with the word ‘comradery’: reflecting on the strength and resilience of the neighbourhood, which permeates in the archival newspaper article. I also made a nod to the fact that the word “comrade” in Chinese was transformed by the Hong Kong and Taiwanese LGBT community in the 80s to refer to “homosexual”. The flowers on the border are the orchid of Hong Kong – a personal ode to the homeland of my ancestors. . Thanks @paulwongprojects for inviting me and VALU CO-OP to be a part of Pride in Chinatown this year ❤️ thanks to @christianyvesjones and Gracy for all the installation help today ❤️ . The official launch is on Saturday! Thanks Terry Sunderland for the design support 🙏🏻

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