Home. Place. Belonging. As we are all treaty people, we long to build connections and relationships with each other. To celebrate the rich cultures, traditions, and knowledge in the Chinese Canadian community, this exhibition will explore their lived histories and experiences from the 1880s to present day.
The past 100 years has seen significant changes for people living in Canada. The year 1923 saw the Government of Canada sign the Williams Treaties with seven First Nations of the Chippewa of Lake Simcoe and Mississauga of the north shore of Lake Ontario. The Canadian Government also strategically chose to take the drastic step of largely excluding Chinese diaspora groups from entering Canada. On July 1, 1923, Canada implemented the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was after years of public pressure to stem the flow of immigration by increasing a “head tax” placed on Chinese people entering Canada. These racist and discriminatory policies have changed the course of the movement of people on and to our country for the past 100 years.
So - What does it mean to be a Canadian of Chinese descent? Whose stories have been excluded over the years? How is the Chinese Canadian community in York Region connected? This exhibition will explore these themes, questions and more through community voice.Wong family celebrating a wedding at Edward Gardens, c.1972/3. Courtesy of Brian Wong.
The list of individuals, families and schools that participated in this project is long because of the wonderful response from the community. We are very grateful for the time, trust and sharing of personal memories, photographs, and artifacts that were entrusted to this project.
Estate of Helen DeWitt
Daisy and Peter Glen
Kenneth and Roberta Hastings
Dr. Keith Lowe
Alice & Jason Mah
Dr. Ken Ng
Connie & Tommy Sung
Brian and Betty Wong
Henry and Andy Yuen
Sheng Xi Zhou
Museums, Archives and Other Associations
Aurora Museum and Archives
Chinese Canadian Archive at Toronto Public Library
Fashion History Museum
Georgina Pioneer Village and Archives
Library and Archives Canada
Long Time No See Collective
Richard Charles Lee-Hong Kong Library at the University of Toronto
Royal BC Museum and Archives
Starlight Chinese Opera Performing Arts Centre
Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival
Toronto Chinese Business Association
Tribute to Early Chinese Immigrants Canada Foundation
Bur Oak Secondary School
Markham District High School
Markville Secondary School
Nokiidaa Public School
Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School
Unionville High School
University of Toronto Museum Studies Program
This project was strongly supported and driven by student voice and engagement. This exhibition saw significant contributions from numerous elementary and secondary schools. Check out these amazing contributions linked below:
Led by Ms. Jadas Lau, student Library Helpers from Nokiidaa Public School tested, trialed and made suggestions for the exhibitions hands-on activities. Their participation helped guide and influence the interactives at Markham Museum and the activities found in the education kit. They also participated in the Tune In YRDSB Podcast.
As an example of the instruments and rich musical influences from China, Conductor Ms. Connie Michailidis recorded the Junior Choir of Nokiidaa Public School perform “Little Silver Moon Boat.” In this recording, the students are singing while some are supporting the vocals with an Orff accompaniment on the Xylophones. A mystical sound of the chimes is used to bring the sparkle of hope into the music, with an entry and exit of the gong. In between both verses a short improvisation is played using a digitized sound of the traditional Chinese Zheng. This improvisation is not memorized but played on the spot and based on how the students are feeling at that very moment. Enjoy!
Students from Bur Oak Secondary School, led by educator and Visual Arts Department Head Martha Griffith, worked individually and collaboratively in teams to engage in an inquiry-let design process in a number of visual art pieces for the exhibition. Students were to consider how works of art can reflect, respond and drive social change in their community as it related to the 100th Anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act. As part of their pre-learning, students worked with educator Ange Wan to unpack the history and lasting impact of the Head Tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act on the community.
Resilience: Unfazed by Bur Oak Secondary School students, upon entrance to Markham Museum.
|Resilience: Unfazed by Bur Oak Secondary School students, as seen from Markham Museum foyer landing.
The final installation pieces, Resilience: Unfazed, consists of two laser cut tapestries that are over 40 feet long in length. This work currently hangs in the entrance atrium of Markham Museum until February 2024, when the work will be returned to Bur Oak Secondary School. This work was designed and created by the grade 11 visual arts teams. Students wrote descriptions of their works displayed on panels.
A collective scroll created from individual linocut prints by Bur Oak Secondary School Visual Art students in Grade 9 and 10. Students created linocut prints to produce a large, collective scroll that hangs from the ceiling in the exhibition space. Over 40 feet long, each print was created with the reflection of the theme “resilience.”
With support by educator George Niles, the grade 11 students from the Communication Technology class at Bur Oak Secondary School, produced a documentary featuring the creation of the art pieces. Produced featuring archival materials, the students interviewed select visual art students on their creative processes and reflections. The finished product is “Reflecting on Discrimination: The Chinese Exclusion Act,” which is available online and in the exhibition.
Students from the Markville Secondary School Dragon Boat Racing Team (featured below) and educator/coach Sabrina Liu provided photographs of their training sessions, personal reflections and loaned items from their team for the exhibition.Markville Secondary School students participating in water training, April 2023.
On September 27th, a quartet from Markville Music played for specially invited guests on the opening night of the exhibition at Markham Museum. With over 150 attendees to the official opening, this group of senior strings students filled the air with beautiful music.
Educator/Coach Fanny Leung and students from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School Trudragons Dragon Boat Racing Team also participated in the exhibition. They lent items including medals, jerseys and a paddle for the exhibition.Dragon boat racing jerseys from three different YRDSB schools were displayed at Markham Museum for the exhibition. In the middle row are two jerseys from Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School, along with their signed paddle in the background.
Students from Unionville High School, led by Shane Clodd, educator and Unionville High School Visual Arts Department, produced a collection of digital illustrations exploring various aspects of Chinese culture.
A sample of the graphic assets created by students from Unionville High School, 2022-2023 school year.
From fashion to food to traditions, the students created artwork through their personal experiences and knowledge. These graphic assets were utilized by the exhibition’s graphic designer, Lisa Wong, in her final design. Some elements were pulled from larger illustrations for use on the banners. Others were used in their entirety throughout the show. This exterior banner displayed at Markham Museum, has a number of graphic elements created by UHS students.
The exterior banner for "Standing in the Doorway" displayed at Markham Museum. A number of UHS student graphics were utilized in the graphics of the show.
Acknowledgement of Funding Support
We would like to acknowledge funding support in part by the Government of Canada. This project has also been supported by the Government of Ontario.