This month marks the official month of cultural recognition for the impact that Asian-North American ties have shaped our country. The local Montreal festival Acces Asie is an exciting opportunity for Asian and Pacific Islanders’ artists, as well as their entire community, to make their voice heard through creative expression and the arts. These artists aspire to raise awareness about their country of origin, and also to depict the struggle it is to find a definite identity in the multicultural patchwork that truly defines North America. Graphite explores Acces Asie and how the festival is just one of many efforts throughout recent history that North American actors have responded to growing need to recognize the role of Asian influence in shaping our history and cultural ties today.
Asian-American ties were long established since the 19th century when the first Japanese immigrants set foot on American soil on May 7 1843. Later, thousands of Chinese immigrants came to North America to construct the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. American leaders such as Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both made efforts to commerorate these two events and the overall contribution that Asian immigrants have made in shaping North America; in 1978 President Jimmy Carter agrees on legally proclaiming the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week in 1978. Fifteen years later, in 1992, President George W. Bush extended it to the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Again, in 2009, President Barack Obama gave a speech in honor of the newly called “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month”. “From the arrival of the first Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants 150 years ago to those who arrive today,” President Obama highlighted, “as well as those native to the Hawaiian Islands and to our Pacific Island territories, all possess the common purpose of the fulfilling the American dream and leading a life bound by the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
While the US initiated the idea, Canada followed in 2002 by adopting an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month as an acknowledgement of “the long and rich history of Asian Canadians and their contributions to Canada”. In the light of this year’s Canadian Asian Heritage Month, Minister for Multiculturalism Kennedy highlighted the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru “incident” and called for the “featuring of] many events and tributes to commemorate this tragic incident in our country’s past” (speech may 6 2014). The logic of settler colonialism in North America forces the creation of a Manichean myth that is still at play today. The Asian (Pacific) Heritage month enters into this political framework of reconciliation – but we’ll discuss this later.
OPENING EXHIBITION: O-BANK-SAEK SYMBOL TO DISCUSS KOREAN IDENTITY
As their first event, Accès Asie presented the exhibition “Obang – the harmony of colours” at the Maison de la Culture Frontenac. Three Korean artists – Jinyoung Kim, Heeseung Ko, and Jihee Min – gathered their work around the symbol of the O-Bank-Saek. On a more individual level or in the name of a certain part of society, the three artists raise the question of reconciliation between their Korean identity and their life on the Canadian soil today.
Check out our second interview with Jihee Min below by clicking our link!
****DISCLAIMER: ENTIRE ARTICLE WRITTEN BY ALIX GUIBERT