Upcoming Project: Goonj! Being Brown in Chinatown at Centre A Gallery by Digital Handloom


Yule Ken Lum, Nisha Kaur Sembi, Jagdeep Raina
Curated by Naveen Girn
Presented in association with Indian Summer Festival

 Look at the left my friend, look at our best dressed hearts. Jagdeep Raina, 2015. Mixed media.

Look at the left my friend, look at our best dressed hearts. Jagdeep Raina, 2015. Mixed media.

July 18 – August 15, 2015
Opening Reception: Saturday, July 18 | 5pm
Come view the installation in progress: July 14-18
Gallery Hours: Tuesday- Saturday, 11am – 6pm

Whenever South Asians have been included in the history of Vancouver, it has often been as a funny anecdote or a cursory sidebar that reaffirms a racial stereotype. However, the South Asian community has a rich oral history and vibrant print culture that points to a century long presence in Vancouver’s Chinatown that is not reflected in the “official archives”. These stories speak of friendships, building communities, shared political action, and intercultural ties that sought to redefine the idea of Vancouver as something other than “White Man’s Country”.

Goonj! Being Brown in Chinatown brings together a trio of young Asian artists along the West Coast who are engaged with the processes of historical remembering and re-imagining. They centre the existence of South Asian history in the space of an early, emerging Chinatown and interact with the revolutionary echoes of past and future struggles. Bay area based graffiti artist Nisha Sembi reconnects the histories of the Pacific Coast Gadhar movements through pop art and graffiti. Emerging artist Jagdeep Raina uses charcoal and paint to refashion archival photos of South Asians as palimpsests of history and memory. Yule Ken Lum stitches together old blue jeans to reconstruct a blue cyanotype taken in the aftermath of the Chinatown Race Riot of 1907. Surrounded by archival images of the Sikh community, the voices of pioneers in song, and old issues of freedom newspapers, Goonj! Being Brown in Chinatown creates the evidence of our past by seeing old forms in new ways.

For Yule Ken Lum’s project we are seeking jeans!

An homage to both his mother and intercultural histories of Vancouver’s Chinatown, Yule Ken Lum is creating a portrait of a Sikh man who, though present in a well known cyanotype of the aftermath of the anti-Asian riots of 1907, has very consistently been cropped out. Perhaps he disrupts more convenient narratives, or perhaps he’s cut for more mundane reasons. Using the method of portraiture — an intercultural assertion of inclusion, Lum reflects importantly on local labour histories. With coaching from and in partial honour of his mother, who as an immigrant labourer sewed jeans in Vancouver for nearly 3 decades, Ken will be creating this massive denim patchwork portrait with the collaboration of members of the community.

Jeans can be dropped off at Centre A (229 E. Georgia Street) during regular gallery hours. Jeans not used for the project will be donated to a local charity.

Yule Ken Lum was born and raised in East Vancouver. He is a graphic designer turned Community Art Activist. He is self taught, with a special interest in painting, sculpting and street art. Now on a journey towards Art Advocacy, he works to fuse art and its creative processes with community development initiatives, believing that this combination can foster a sense of connection that crosses boundaries of age and culture.

Nisha Kaur Sembi was born and raised in Berkeley, California where she currently lives and works. Nisha’s work has been exhibited widely at art venues throughout the Bay Area, including two separate features at the esteemed deYoung Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Her solo exhibitions include a groundbreaking urban street art inspired show at The Living Room Cafe in New Delhi’s Haus Kauz Village (2011), as well as her most recent mixed-media solo exhibit called Word to Your Motherland (2012) that took place in Oakland, California and again in Sacramento California (2013); which has evolved into a dynamic new international exhibition series with educational workshop components that is the first of its kind.

Jagdeep Raina was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Western University in London, Ontario, where he specialized in painting and drawing, and also completed a major in English Literature, graduating with Dean’s Honour List in 2013. In 2012,Raina attended the Advanced Painting Intensive Program, offered by Columbia University, which took place in Paris, France. Raina is currently a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the painting department, where his work deals with using the archive as an entry point to study the history of Punjabi Sikh communities amid the broader South Asian Diaspora throughout the Americas.






We must cultivate our garden - curatorial statement for Char Bagh at Club PuSh by Digital Handloom

Originally published at pushfest.ca.

Over the past five years, artists within the South Asian diaspora have been experimenting with the tools of storytellers – manipulating and reconstructing these forms to make them speak new tongues through digital media, graffiti, hip-hop, and spoken word. Mandeep Sethi, Nisha Sembi and Rupi Kaur are the part this new generation of storytellers who express what it means to be South Asian in 2015; and for the first time ever we will bring their stories from the digital forefront of this new wave to the waterfront of Granville Island, at Club PuSh on Saturday, January 31.

Their tales speak of the immigrant experience, systemic and internal racism, and the effects of class, all framed through the lens of emerging voices. These new perspectives raise questions of home, history, and identity, moving away from the tired “caught between two cultures”, and moving toward seeing these stories as our story. 

San Francisco based emcee Mandeep Sethi will spit socially conscious hip-hop with evocative lyrics pounding to a Punjabi folk beat, while Bay area artist Nisha Sembi will create a live graffiti “response piece” to the performance – visually reinterpreting our communal stories. Sethi and Sembi have previously collaborated on the Word to Your Motherland project in the Bay Area. Closer to home, they have also worked with local First Nations to paint a mural in North Vancouver, drawing upon each respective community’s artistic traditions to forge something new. Complimenting their creative spirit will be Rupi Kaur’s spoken word poetry of love and longing, proudly voicing the language of desire as a natural right. Toronto-based spoken word artist Rupi Kaur’s sensitive voice captures the love that (in)completes and celebrates the beauty of broken English. Sethi, Sembi and Kaur are part of a new form of storytelling and expression whose contours are yet to be determined.

These artists have grown up absorbing and refashioning old technologies and forms of expression into something vibrant. Local artists will have the opportunity to learn from these artists and be inspired to use history, memory, and identity to grow new art forms in Vancouver.

Manjot Bains & Naveen Girn
Digital Handloom

Experience this emerging artistic movement of young South Asians across North America, join us at Club PuSh for Char Bagh on Saturday, January 31. Book Char Bagh on your PuSh Pass, Youth Passport or as a single ticket online.