Asian Heritage Month

Don Montgomery,

Executive Director of explorASIAN



by Sophia Kim      Photo by Myungsook Lee













       Heritage related articles            

Ever since May 2002, the month of May is officially designated to celebrate ¡°the long and rich history of Asian Canadians and their contributions to Canada.¡± With a legacy that reaches as far back as almost a century, there are many achievements and contributions to be celebrated. The achievements of Larry ¡°King¡± Kwong, the first Asian to play in the National Hockey league; and David Jung, the first Chinese Canadian to be elected to the house of commons, are just a few examples of achievements and contributions to be celebrated this May. However, what is also important in these celebrations are the achievements of the Asian Canadians today. This is what these festivals across Canada are celebrating.

In the Lower Mainland, BC, the explorASIAN Festival showcases a variety of Asian art and takes place throughout the month of May. It easily features over 100 artists and gives the local Asian artists a chance to be exposed to the broader community.

Don Montgomery, the Executive Director of explorASIAN, explains the significance of these events for both the artists and the communities. ¡°We try not to show the obvious; [for example,] here¡¯s a Chinese thing, a Korean thing, a South Asian thing. We strive to bring different communities together to collaborate and produce exciting new works.¡±

In fact, the Festival which defines itself as a contemporary mainstream arts festival encourages everyone Asian and non-Asian to take part both as audience and as artists. ¡°Our mandate is to provide opportunities for local emerging artists to showcase their work and to open the line of communication within the diverse and mainstream communities,¡± explains Montgomery.

The Festival is held in English and everyone is encouraged to participate. As important as the celebration of Asian heritage is, Montgomery says it is also important that ¡°we¡¯re all Canadians at the end of the day, and we should be proud of it.¡±

Festivities across the country and the designation of the month of May as Asian Heritage month reinforce this notion. Considering the long history of Asian immigration to Canada and the sometimes turbulent relationship between the Asian Canadians and their society, the recognition of their contributions is a big step forward.

Montgomery, a third generation Chinese Canadian, testifies to the change in society, ¡°I grew up during a time when opportunities in general for Asian Canadians were limited and Asian Canadian artists had a difficult time breaking into the mainstream markets. That is not the case anymore.¡±

With good feedback every year, the accomplishment of the Asian Heritage Month festivities is seen in the success of the showcased artists. As the largest and the second oldest Asian Heritage Month Festival in Canada., the explorASIAN Festival has highlighted over 900 diverse artists in the past 13 years, some of whom have gone on to a much larger venues.

A Brief History of Asian North America, created by the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society through a community building initiative. Montgomery explains that, first published in 2000, the project tells the story of Asian North Americans, starting with a focus on North America and then narrowing to British Columbia in an abbreviated chronological time line. The intent is to broaden the readers¡¯ understanding of the Asian presence in North American history.

Focusing on individual achievements, it shows ¡°how Asians have always been an integral part of the settlement and development of North America,¡± says Montgomery. At the same time he points out, ¡°This abbreviated time line is a work-in-progress and is by no means definitive.¡±

¡°It is, however, an important first step towards setting the record straight and providing a foundation for further research and compilation. It is also an excellent resource for educators to use in the classroom when teaching North American and Canadian history,¡± concludes Montgomery.

The numerous artists and audience members of the festivals are shaping and defining, not just an ethnic culture in Canada, but an Asian Canadian presence in North America that is celebrated every May across Canada.


DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits



2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 


24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world



32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art


10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences



35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks


You Can Order Here.

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    DIVERSE......"Each person is born into a unique culture. All deserve respect.¡±