A very special project in Chinatown has been attracting attention from locals and tourists alike. The CBC has written about the Chinatown History Windows which were designed to animate the vacant storefronts in the area. The large photos are historically accurate and often have been “stylized and recoloured ” to capture imaginations.
There is a heady legacy of what Chinese Canadians have done for Canada. In 1867 seventy per cent of the population of British Columbia was First Nations, with 4,000 Americans, 4,000 from Europe, Great Britain or Australia, and 4,000 Chinese. These early Chinese immigrants took on the arduous and at times deadly work of building the railway across Canada. From those beginnings Chinese-Canadians have faced discrimination, from a head tax to come to Canada, to not being allowed to vote until 1947. It was not until 1951 that all of the exclusionary laws were repealed.
The photos and the project has been curated by Catherine Clement who notes “These stories, they matter. They set context. They enrich us when we understand where we come from, and what has happened .”
In animating the windows, Catherine Clement has brought parts of a forgotten Chinatown community alive. Adjacent to the Chinese Cultural Centre a window documents Yucho Chow a photographer that photographed Chinatown’s citizens for four decades. The photos are fascinating, in that they show facets of everyday life in a part of the city that is often forgotten as being one of the oldest and most historical.
The CBC radio interview featuring Catherine Clement can be heard by following this link.