Asian Heritage Month

Human and Social Development, Education, Fine Arts, Social Sciences, Libraries, Humanities

Unsplash stock photo of cherry blossoms
Four exhibits, new research, resources, books and a video on taking action against anti-Asian racism are some of the many stories being highlighted this month. (Image credit: unsplash)

May is Asian Heritage Month. One of this year’s themes is “Continuing a legacy of greatness.”

This month is an opportunity for the University of Victoria to showcase the stories, research, contributions and vital impact made by people of Asian descent on campus, in our communities and beyond. We’re celebrating Asian cultures within the vibrant and diverse communities of Canadian society as we collectively forge our way together toward a better, more inclusive, future.

Four exhibits, a video, new research, as well as books and resources, are some of many examples of what will be highlighted this month. Stay tuned to UVic’s social media channels for more.

Paintings of internment carry echo of generations

A new exhibition, Isshoni: Henry Shimizu’s Paintings of New Denver Internment, is now open at UVic’s free downtown public art gallery.

oil on canvas, painting by Henry Shimizu
“Exile - Leaving Prince Rupert” (detail, 1999-2002) by Dr. Henry Shimizu, oil on canvas, from his collection currently featured in the Legacy exhibition.

Featuring a collection of oil paintings, Isshoni provides deep insights into the intergenerational trauma of the forced uprooting and internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. The artist who produced these evocative pieces is also a UVic honorary degree recipient. Dr. Henry Shimizu, who enjoyed a long and distinguished career in medicine in Alberta, produced the collection 20 years ago to capture his recollections of confinement in the internment camp in the Slocan Valley during the 1940s. Dr. Shimizu now lives in Victoria.

Isshoni runs through June 18 at Legacy Downtown.

Connecting health, sleep and psychosocial well-being

Christine Ou, an assistant professor in UVic’s School of Nursing, studies maternal mental health and postpartum health.

Dr. Christine Ou
Christine Ou. (Credit: Steven Heine)

Ou began her career as a pediatric registered nurse and, after joining UVic in 2021, continues to support children and families with a program of research focused on the sleep and psychosocial well-being of families with infants and children.

She recently co-wrote a piece for The Conversation Canada about how prolonged sleep disruption puts new mothers at higher risk for developing mood disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety.

Ou’s analysis was perfectly timed for Mother’s Day on May 8.

Diaspora, landscapes and visual vocabularies

Rewild by Rick Leong
Rick Leong’s “Rewild” (detail, 2021), one of the pieces included in his NYC solo exhibit. (Image provided courtesy of the artist)

While Rick Leong’s large-format landscape paintings are often distinctly Canadian in their subject matter, they are influenced by classical Chinese imagery and forms that help define the artist’s bilingual visual vocabulary. This imaginative visual style not only enables the visual arts professor to negotiate his shared heritage but also allows Leong to critically engage with the history of Canadian landscape painting.

Born and raised on BC’s coast, Leong believes our relationship with nature and landscape truly informs our sense of personal identity and feelings of belonging; his recent body of work, The Desired Path—the focus of his first US solo exhibit in New York City in 2021—explored our symbiotic relationship with nature as seen within man-made structures.

Visual arts prof Rick Leong
Leong working on “Swell,” an earlier large-format piece. 

Himself a UVic visual arts alumnus, Leong’s works can be found in numerous collections, including the Canada Council Art Bank, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Chinese science fiction, soft power and feminism

Can anglophone translations of Chinese science fiction open up the realm of possibilities for depictions of women’s gender and sexual identities? Humanities scholar Angie Chau, who teaches Chinese literature and film in UVic's Department of Pacific and Asian Studies, poses this question in her upcoming paper to be presented in June at an international conference, with a version appearing in the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Chinese Gender and Sexuality.

Dr. Angie Chau
Angie Chau. (Photo taken by Katrianna Skulsky at UVic)

Chau builds upon recent #metoo discussions in the global context and uses analysis of several translated short stories to reveal how themes of sexual desire, storytelling and memory promote the image of a progressive and equitable China based on fantasies of womanhood and technology as signs of individual and collective agency.

Chau adds, “Promoting this image of China can potentially allow the country to repair public global perceptions of gender roles in its contemporary society.”

Psychology prof shines spotlight on anti-Asian racism

Based on research released this year, psychologist Nigel Mantou Lou sheds light on a frightening aspect to COVID-19. In the new study—led by Mantou Lou in collaboration with University of Alberta psychologist Kimberly Noels and other researchers including from the Angus Reid Institute—it’s clear that hate crimes targeted at Asian Canadians have increased hundreds of times over what they were before the pandemic began.

Dr. Nigel Lou from 2022 Knowledge
Nigel Mantou Lou. (Credit: Photo Services)

Lou, who joined UVic’s Department of Psychology in 2021, points to the dual pandemic experienced by many Chinese Canadians who are worried about ongoing discrimination in a post-COVID world. He also reflects on his own experiences in a recent UVic research column.

Eyes Open, a new video

Christopher Tse, a UVic alumnus (Master of Social Work) and current sessional instructor with UVic’s School of Social Work, wrote and narrated a video about anti-Asian racism.

Eyes Open: An Anti-Asian Racism PSA (May 2021, by CCNC for Social Justice)

More about this video

The powerful video was a collaborative project with the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, which is a national organization that educates, engages and advocates for equity and justice for all in Canada.

Inspiring healthier BC families through digital health

Sam Liu leads Generation Health, a free, interactive 10-week program that incorporates mental health activities, builds resilience and self-confidence, and supports families across BC to make positive behavioral changes such as healthy eating, increased physical activity, enhanced mental well-being, as well as less screen time and more sleep.

Dr. Sam Liu
Sam Liu. (Photo provided courtesy of Liu)

Liu, a professor in UVic’s School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, says his Asian heritage has contributed to his approach to research. “Just being a minority helped me dictate and view the research that I do,” said Sam. “In terms of research programming and design, making sure that it is diverse from that perspective, as well as taking considerations when we do data analysis to make sure that we have a representative sample within our group.”

Learning from legacies of racism

This season marks the 80th anniversary of the forced displacement, internment and dispossession of more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians from the coastal regions of British Columbia in the 1940s.

Landscapes of Injustice archival photo
Displaced Japanese Canadians leaving BC’s coast after being prohibited by law from staying in the area. This archival photo was featured in Landscape’s 2020 “Broken Promises” exhibit. (Image courtesy of NNMCC. NNM, 1994.

Landscapes of Injustice, launched in 2014, is one of the largest humanities research projects in Canada and explores the dispossession of Japanese Canadians eight decades ago. This public history project shares the stories of multi-generational trauma as a direct result of a sustained campaign initiated by the Canadian government during the Second World War. Housed at UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, the project is governed by a committee of representatives from partnering institutions, including Sherri Kajiwara, director of the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, and is overseen by project manager Michael Abe and project director Jordan Stanger-Ross of UVic’s Department of History.

Library guides and a digital exhibit

UVic Libraries' Asian Heritage Month LibGuide and Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression LibGuide both serve to highlight the additional resources available in its collection.

Glimpses into Chinese Immigration history in Canada is a digital exhibition of selected articles, video interviews, historical photos and documents from The New Republic and The World Journal Vancouver, published in Victoria and Vancouver respectively. These two newspapers are valuable resources to researchers and have been transcribed and translated into English to reach a broader audience.

Art and book collections

Andy Lou's Maple Leaves
Andy Lou’s “Maple Leaves” (detail, 2022), traditional Chinese painting on rice paper, featured in the Mearns - McPherson Library exhibition. (Partial detail used with permission)

Now open in the main floor lobby of the Mearns - McPherson Library, UVic Libraries is proud to present Tradition to Transformation: Visualizing Home in the Art and Book Collections of Asian-Canadians, an exhibition of original artworks by the Victoria Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Association. Founded in 2020, the association is a group of artists and enthusiasts sharing, promoting and learning about the art of Chinese painting and calligraphy.

In addition, a curated selection of art books featuring Asian artists is available on the “New Books” shelf—selected by Pacific and Asian Studies librarian Ying Liu and Fine Arts librarian Tad Suzuki—with an additional display from UVic Special Collections in the feature display case in the main floor lobby area. 

Find out more

Every year in May, Asian Heritage Month is celebrated in Canada. It is a time to reflect on and celebrate the contributions of Canadians of Asian descent.


In this story

Keywords: administrative, community, diversity, human rights, racism, research

People: Legacy Art Galleries, Henry Shimizu, Christine Ou, Rick Leong, Angie Chau, Nigel Mantou Lou, Christopher Tse, Sam Liu, Sherri Kajiwara, Jordan Stanger-Ross, Michael Abe, Ying Liu, Tad Suzuki

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