Legacy of Asian-Canadian author Jim Wong-Chu in the spotlight

posted on October 14, 2019

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

The Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS), in partnership with the University of British Columbia and Emily Carr University of Art + Design, is launching an exhibition on the life and work of iconic Asian-Canadian poet, editor, activist and historian Jim Wong-Chu.

The exhibit, “Jim Wong-Chu: Iconic | Asian | Canadian” runs from October 10 – November 15 at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC’s Vancouver campus.

“Jim Wong-Chu was the quintessential promoter of Asian-Canadian writing and culture, through his own poetry and writing as well as tireless advocacy for the work of other Asian-Canadian artists,” said VAHMS president Leticia Sánchez. “We’re so thrilled to showcase, together with UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections, and Emily Carr University, the best of his life and work to inspire current and future generations.”

About Jim Wong-Chu

Jim Wong-Chu (1949 –2017) was born in Hong Kong and came to Canada in 1953. He attended the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art + Design) from 1975 to 1981, majoring in photography and design. He worked at the Vancouver School of Art and also became involved with Vancouver Co-op Radio on the Pender Guy program, which focused on culture and integration.

Wong-Chu is considered one of the first Asian-Canadian authors to give voice to Asian communities in times when support for Asian arts was difficult to obtain. He dedicated much of his time to compiling a literary anthology called Many-Mouthed Birds that showcased the richness of Asian-Canadian literature.

During 1995 and 1996 he co-founded the Asian Canadian Performing Arts Resource and became one of the founders of the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, where he helped many young Asian-Canadian writers to succeed by editing and finding publishers for their works.

The exhibition, curated by Vancouver-based curator Jennifer Dickieson, will include photographs, posters, manuscripts and other materials on Wong-Chu’s life and activism.

In 1996, Jim Wong-Chu founded VAHMS along with Mishtu Banerjee, Mo-Ling Chui, Grace Eiko Thomson and Winston Xin to explore the diversity of Asian-Canadian life and culture, and promote discussion of relevant issues and concerns within and beyond Vancouver’s Asian-Canadian communities. VAHMS organized the first explorASIAN festival, a month-long celebration in May honouring Asian Heritage Month in Canada.

Event information:

Exhibition: October 10–November 15, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, 1961 East Mall, UBC Vancouver

Exhibition opening (limited seats): Thursday, October 10, 6 p.m. at Sikine Room (Room 260), Irving K. Barber Learning Centre

Chinatown Ghosts reading on October 19: A special listening event on Saturday, October 19 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Motion Capture Studio (Room D1400) at Emily Carr University where invited guest readers will read a selection of Wong-Chu’s poetry published in his book Chinatown Ghosts, alongside their own work.

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