If you want inspiration to ignite your own creativity, whether it be dance, choreography, playing an instrument, musical composition, singing, sculpture, painting, drawing, videography, photography, acting, fabric arts, or writing, the digital photo album below, of 130 Asian-Canadian artists might be the right source.
You will be introduced to artists from around the country, although a few were caught isolating far away from their homes in Canada. Each portrait has a website or Instagram link and most also include a quote. You will learn about their work and about how their creativity was affected during the lockdown. Some found their creativity stifled; overcome by the pressures of isolation, loss and grief, and the added responsibilities of working from home and/or 24/7 childcare.
For example, dancers living in small apartments couldn’t move freely, especially if they were concerned about bothering their downstairs neighbours with thumps on the floors. Painters and sculptors had limited access to supplies because of supply chain delays. Many had their performances cancelled and saw severe drops in their income. These are different but similar issues people the world over faced.
But there were hopeful responses too. Some found inspiration through virtual connections and collaboration. Many became more reflective about their art; some re-evaluated their overall goals in life. A number of male artists noted their joy in spending more time in child rearing. There was a lot of reading. There was self-care; long walks and being in nature. A number of people used the time to help others by making and donating face masks or by performing on-line for free.
Some found new virtual opportunities, whether in work as voice actors or creating a home studio, practicing or learning new skills, or teaching others.
You might even find someone who can teach you a new artistic practice!
The photos were taken remotely by Kiran Ambwani, a professional documentary and portrait photographer based in Montreal.
“Passionate about people, the spaces they create and inhabit, their lifestyle, and the arts, … Kiran’s images reflect a sensitivity shaped by her background in anthropology and environmental studies, and her numerous travels. Driven by a curiosity for the problematics encountered by marginalized populations, Kiran has explored, among others, the lives of Tibetan monks in exile in south India, the survivors of child trafficking in Mumbai & Kathmandu, the inhabitants of Mumbai’s slums, and post-disaster relief efforts in Nepal, Ecuador and Haiti.”
You can read more about Kiran’s varied and humanistic work on her website.
I met Kiran at a virtual National Asian Heritage Month Symposium in the fall of 2020. Kiran took my portrait, featured above, via a Zoom call on my laptop. It is a bit fuzzy because the wifi signal outside my house was weak and I had to stand still for a long exposure.
I wanted the photo to show all the things I was doing during the pandemic. I was walking a lot; the photo captured the outdoors. I was teaching karate over Zoom; thus I wore a Gi. I was kitting and starting to write again after a hiatus; a pen and knitting needles held in one hand. I was learning to bake bread and pies; a pastry blender and cookbook in the other hand. I also wore one of my hand-beaded facemasks – most of which I have given away.
Because of the rise in incidents of anti-Asian hate, Kiran also wanted to know if individual artists had been targeted. As you will see, some artists did report such threatening experiences. While I was spared, a younger member of my family had been targeted at a bus stop in Victoria. In addition to our outrage that it happened at all, was the fact that this very obvious verbal abuse was not challenged by any of the many bystanders.
In an earlier post, I referred to this project that started during the pandemic and continues its campaign against anti-Asian racism.
There are resources for how to report incidents, how to heal from being harassed, and as importantly, how bystanders can more actively intervene.
Learning about one another’s culture, through sharing food, music, art, and stories is one way to build understanding, trust, and friendship. As restraints on social interaction have been lifted and severe illness and death from COVIC-19 have been reduced due to the availability of vaccines, you might have seen some of these artists once again performing at public celebrations for Asian Heritage Month such as those organized by exploreAsian in Vancouver and other major cities across Canada.
There is still time to check out ongoing events and educational resources.