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Cochrane Public Library exhibit features Chinese immigration to Canada

The exhibition encourages a wider and continuous discourse, keeping Chinese history in Canada alive for present and future generations.
Raeann Kit-Yee Cheung, Rooted, 2021. Inkjet on archival paper.

An art exhibition depicting the struggles of Chinese immigrants is on display at the Cochrane Public Library until April 12.

“WE ARE IMMIGRANTS - The Hidden Hardships & Legacy of Early Chinese Canadian Immigrants” explores the hidden hardships faced and legacy of early Chinese Canadian immigrants from the mid 19th century onward.

The exhibition was curated by Ashley Slemming and is being circulated by TREX SW through the Alberta Society of Artists in Calgary.

Artist Raeann Kit-Yee Cheung’s work was selected because of its poignant messaging.

“I felt it had a really strong educational component, in terms of being able to share important stories of immigrants and their experiences, and being able to educate around why our ancestry matters,” Slemming said.

Kit-Yee Cheung’s creation Rooted exemplifies the mixed media approach.

"Rooted was conceived from a contemplative doodle using watercolour on a silver-gelatin print (which are two media not initially cohesive on contact),” Kit-Yee Cheung said.

“My hand was merely the mechanics behind an uncanny message that yearned to appear as rooted trees before the storefront, seemingly emphasizing that despite an unsettling beginning, the Chinese were among the earliest settlers in Canada and have since been well-rooted contributors to this country.”

The news release states the exhibition celebrates the resilience of Chinese immigrants in overcoming immense adversity and their contribution to Canada in solidifying the country’s confederacy. Archival images, texts, historical novels, and personal interviews have collectively informed Raeann Kit-Yee Cheung’s imagery sources and interventions.

“The colour yellow (a stinging label yet also the seed of the artist’s identity) is a reclaimed as a celebratory symbol for all Asians and is ingrained in the series to emphasize Asians as one of the earliest settlers in Canada,” the release reads.

The release also states that Chinese immigrants are an integral part of Canada’s military history and economy, and should therefore be celebrated with confidence. Anti-Asian sentiment is but one form of discrimination inherent in every society.

The exhibition encourages a wider and continuous discourse, keeping this history alive for present and future generations.

The educational catalogue that accompanies the exhibit incorporates a number of immigrant stories that coincide with each of the individual artworks that are part of the exhibition.

To view that catalogue, go to

Howard May

About the Author: Howard May

Howard was a journalist with the Calgary Herald and with the Abbotsford Times in BC, where he won a BC/Yukon Community Newspaper Association award for best outdoor writing.
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