On Being Water

When I followed the Hong Kong Protests daily, what captured me the brilliant use of colors. Not just in clothing and tools but as forms of communication. As with all things, I always filter how I see the world through my Elder’s teachings (Elder Isaac Day of Serpent River First Nations). Some of the colors that held the most sway overall were Yellow, Red, Black and White. In Isaac’s teachings that would be Honesty, Kindness, Caring and Sharing. As I reflect on these teachings and think about the Hong Kong Protests I find these teachings completely and aptly applicable.

Of all the signs I choose to replicate the ones that resonated with me the most is “Don’t Shoot Our Kids”, “I Will Not Kill Myself”, “Stop Killing Us” “Be Water! We are formless. We are shapeless. We can flow. We can crash. We are like water. We are HONGKONGERS.” and Hong Kong People Hearts Never Die in Cantonese. I think it is important to profile that the police brutality in Hong Kong has largely targeted the childen and youth, medics and journalists, hoping to scare others into submission. Without the children and youth the movement is ashes on the ground. So I am showing solidarity and my own prayers that the Kids are protected. It is a sad state when children have to take to the streets to protest their own government and write wills to do so.

“I Will Not Kill Myself” was the single most emotional sign I had to replicate. Thinking of the allegations of “suicide” that clearly are of well know prominent protesters including Chan Yin-Lam (15 year old), Chow Tsz-lok (22 year old), Alex Chow and so many unnamed victims targeted by the Hong Kong Police Force, and their enacted state sanctioned brutality during the protests of 2019 and 2020. What struck me in my research is how difficult it was to find a list of these names. I hope these moments and acts are not lost to the tendrils of history. A not so gentle reminder of the great human rights abuses that are being perpetuated in Hong Kong against it’s citizens as we speak. “Stop Killing Us” isn’t just a poster it’s a reality for Hong Kong citizens right now as we speak.

Finally closing this circle of grief is still the strong hope and message of Hong Kong People, Hearts Never Die written in Cantonese. I believe in the future of our peoples. As long as our hearts live with the fire of the future and we flow like water, then this hope and fight for freedom also never dies. Until we are all free.

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In the Shadows of Gods

I don’t recall what the festival is called but a search on Google tells me it’s called the Ching Ming Festival. Ching Ming and the Mid Autumn Festivals were by far my favorite time of year overshadowing even Chinese New Year. Both festivals featured fire prominently and reminding me of aspects of my all time favorite time of year: Halloween.

Ching Ming being a festival we went and visited our ancestors resting places, talking to them, honoring them with offerings of food and wine, while burning joss money and sometimes even paper condos and servants. I loved the fire, the bigger the better, I loved feeding the fire with our folded joss money, I loved watching other families offer condos, suits, phones and servants to the all consuming flames. The whole day of adventures: going from site to site and we would end the day with a feast as if we were celebrating with the ancestors together. We would all sit down on my Great Grandfather’s grave and eat a sumptuous meal of foods, fruits and wine often amongst the sweet aroma of ripening mango’s on the trees around us.

The Mid Autumn festival with the lanterns and bonfires was another highlight of the year. I delighted in making lanterns that I knew I would be able to burn later in the night, parent sanctioned and all. I love fire to this day. Some of my other favorite things to this day being the moon and rabbits, Mid Autumn festival was the pinnacle of my favorite things: Fire, Moon worship, Rabbits and making things. For the adults it was also time to find love and there would be markets of fresh flowers and mazes with notes dangling from higher up, each seeking love or a particular lover. The lights, the flowers, the fires and the lanterns all made for a fantastical childhood that is unparalleled in Canada.

There is something magical about fire to me always and forever. I still remember keenly the smell of josh sticks in the air, the special candles we used, I remember collecting moon cake tins with various indentations to make interesting molds for the night of melting candles. Most of all I loved the ritual of folding and burning joss money. My Grandmother taught me how to fold these papers with the golden square in the middle, we folded it to mimic the old school currency of the gold ingot, know also as a yuanbao.

I grew up in a time in Hong Kong where mythologies and legends were real life. To me phoenix’s and dragons were the real deal, ghost and ancestors walked amongst us and the Gods and Goddesses was a relationship full of wonder, fantasy and fire. May our prayers rise with the smoke to the Gods and Goddesses. It brings me a great peace, at 45, to start to bring these elements to my own home in this foreign land, creating an Altar to the same Goddess as my mother did for so many years continuing a lineage and tradition older then the words I write on this page.

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Teachings of Kindness

Growing up my mother always had something, a drawing, a statue, a picture she treasured of Kuan Yin. The one I think of the most; she is standing on a lotus flower in full bloom, her left hand pouring water from an elegant vase and her right holding a plant of some sort, usually a delicate one like wisps of willow or something like that.

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Working with Tangled Art + Disability

I was nominated for Vital Capacities via Tangled Art + Disability. My journey with them started with the exhibition Thaumaturgy. I believe it was our 2nd or 3rd meeting that accessibility training was conducted, in depth instruction was provided so that our exhibition was developed on a foundation of accessibility grounding our direction from day one to be accessible to people of different abilities.

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Tapestry of Colors

Street shrines and altars, Hong Kong – A deep longing for the vibrant culture and language of Hong Kong. My fondest memories involve our Ancestor altars and festivals around ghosts, the fires, the festivals and the feasts, I miss that rich ancestor based tapestry guiding our lives. Researching altars to recreate my own altar for my piece.

Thinking about the many nights spend enraptured by the burning flames. Remembering my Grandmother teaching me how to fold funerary money with joss paper, the shape resembling gold ingots of time gone by. I remember the festival of Ghosts, the one I fondly called Ghost New Year, where we visited all the graves of our direct ancestors, cleaning their graves, feeding them and praying with them, and finally a feast with them.

Our final gravesite was in the hills covered by fruit trees and an old stone tomb with mottled and dark gray stone. The smell of joss sticks and candles burning mingling with the sweet smell of the fruit trees and the full smells of tangerines, rice wine and roasted pork. Perhaps my fascination as a child is because of the magic surrealism of folk tales, fables and old Chinese festivals mingled together to give me a fantastical childhood full of legends, Ancestors and learnings.

As I prepare this piece I think of all the beautiful moments of richness, sound and tapestry of colors, sounds and sights that filled my childhood.

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