September 11 – October 20, 2019
In the uncharted corners of my mind live the memories of the first five years of my life in Xi’an, China. Although Toronto has been home for most of my twenty-five years, Xi’an was where everything started. The memories of that time are as clear as they are nebulous, distinctly my own, but of a different lifetime. Having grown up very much embracing my Canadian identity, I’ve found my connection to my Chinese culture growing thin. My level of Mandarin is on par with that of a middle-school student, and my relationships with many extended family members in China have been worn down by distance and time. My limited knowledge of the realities of life in China, and my ancestral history, lead me to question what my responsibilities are to knowing and embracing my heritage. How much of Chinese culture should I adopt and pass onto my own children?
This story of cultural identity is a widespread one in the city of Toronto. Many of my Chinese-Canadian friends who were either born here or immigrated at a young age must ask themselves these questions of identity throughout their lives. In an attempt to answer these questions for myself, I returned to my childhood home in Xi’an to rediscover my past in China. I photographed the places and people so vivid in my memories, and explored my nostalgia and cultural unease with a home that I no longer belong to.
Through images and words, I try to paint a picture of my connection to Da Pi Yuan, the gated apartment community where my grandparents still live. I lean into the dream-like, fragmented nature of memory, and show my discovery of my ancestral past through archival images and conversations with my grandparents. I meditate on the notions of home and familial relationships as a member of a multicultural family, separated by an ocean.
Da Pi Yuan is an exploration, an homage, and a love letter to my first home. It is a document of my journey into deepening and embracing what it means to be Chinese Canadian.
Fall Exhibitions Opening Party
Wednesday, September 11, 6–8 pm
Daily 2:30 pm
All events take place at the Ryerson Image Centre, unless otherwise noted