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June 2003

    Greater Vancouver Asian Heritage Month:

    Not the First But Clearly the Biggest and Best

    Sid Chow Tan

    May was Asian Heritage Month and over one hundred events in Greater Vancouver invited all Canadians to commemorate the past and present legacy of Asian Canadians. This year's AHM, titled "ExplorASIAN 2003: Exploring the Silk Root,” saw the significant local pan-Asian community actively define and strengthen the diversity of their historical and contemporary experiences.

    In its seventh year in the Lower Mainland, AHM has become a showcase for creators of new music, dance, electronic art, literary works, video and film that acknowledge the long and rich history of Asian Canadian.

    Organized by the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, ExplorASIAN 2003 presents artistic and cultural talent to foster cross-cultural understanding among Canada's cultural communities.

    "One of our city's great strengths is the contribution made by our diverse multicultural community," said Mayor Larry Campbell of Vancouver. "ExplorASIAN 2003 builds on that strength by promoting understanding among the Canadian Pan-Asian community organizations and our wider British Columbia society."

    ExplorASIAN 2003 Canadian Heritage Awards were presented in five categories on Thursday, April 24 in a gala fundraising dinner. The awards honour significant contributions that preserve, develop and promote Asian culture in British Columbia.

    Choo Chait Goh and Lin Yee Goh, who established the Goh Ballet Academy in 1978, received the individual award for building community for providing citizens of Greater Vancouver with the foremost dance school in Western Canada. Through public performances and school presentations, the artistry and talents of the dancers are shared with every age level and cultural group in British Columbia.

    Donna Spencer and the Firehall Arts Centre actively promote colour-blind and type-blast casting and the recruitment and training or actors from visible minorities. Recipient of the organization award non-profit charitable organization donates over 1000 tickets annually to downtown eastside residents to enjoy the professional performing arts in their own neighbourhood. Ms. Spencer, Jessie award-winning director, is current Firehall Artistic Producer and founding director.

    Roy Miki, the 2002 Governor General's Award winner for poetry, received the Transforming Art award for outstanding literary and cultural contributions integrating historical and contemporary concerns in ways that have inspired many communities. From the late 1960s to the present, has undertaken research into the internment of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s and combined this with extraordinary volunteer contributions in the Japanese Canadian redress movement.

    David Y. H. Lui received the Living Heritage award. A member of the Order of Canada for his service to the arts, Mr. Lui has been elected to the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Queen's Silver Jubilee and Canada 125 medals. He has brought the great performing artists in dance, music and stage to Vancouver over the last thirty years.

    Hanako Masutani, Creative Director and head of the Editorial Collective of RicePaper magazine, received the Excellence in Youth award. She has taught English in Japan and was a teaching assistant at the University of Victoria. Hanako has also translated her late grandfather's manuscript, "A Hundred Buddhist Tales: Life Stories of the Buddha. "

    Toronto hosted Canada's first Asian Heritage Month in 1993 and now there are month-long celebrations across the country from Halifax to Vancouver and Victoria. In December 2001, the Senate of Canada passed a motion officially designating May as Asian Heritage Month. The Government of Canada followed, officially recognized May as Asian Heritage Month in 2002. ExplorASIAN 2003 was the largest Asian Heritage Month festival in Canada.


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