Whose Chinatown? explores real and imaginary Chinatown

February 1, 2021

By Vancouver Sun |

While Chinatowns exist in a physical place in Vancouver and other cities across Canada, they’re also cultural creations that exist in fictional worlds, in movies and on TV.

Chinatown, according to the guest curator of a new exhibition, doesn’t have a fixed definition or representation. Karen Tam believes there is always going to be real and imaginary Chinatowns.

Tam has selected 159 photos, paintings, prints, artifacts, videos and other works from private collections and artist estates, as well as personal, family and public archives, to tell a story about Canada through the lens of Chinatown.

She’s called the exhibition Whose Chinatown?, because she wants to provoke discussion about what Chinatown means.

“When you have conversations about Chinatown, is it, ‘My Chinatown?’ ‘Your Chinatown?’ or, ‘Our Chinatown?’ ” Tam said. “What is your vision? What is my vision? Do we share the same views of Chinatown? If we’re thinking about the future heritage of Chinatown, who are we saving Chinatown for?”

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