Since the covid-19 pandemic began, the world has seen a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes by 164%. Here at Kosan we don’t tolerate racism or bigotry of any kind, and we work with vulnerable communities to communicate and educate the public to help create a more unified world. So with this in mind, and in collaboration with Joyce Lay Hoon Ho aka Arty Guava, we created the Together We Stand collection. Every profit of this collection will be donated to the Canadian Society For Asian Arts, as chosen by Joyce. To understand this collection, we interviewed Joyce to get a look inside the mind of the artist, and the reasoning behind this piece, here it is.
Where are you from?
I’m born and raised in Penang, an island state in Malaysia. It is actually quite a popular travel destination in Malaysia, known for its historical charm, street art, and delicious street food. I moved to Singapore for my tertiary education and worked there for many years before moving to Vancouver with my family.
When did you move to Canada?
My family and I moved to Canada from Singapore in late 2018.
Were you worried about racism when you first came here?
One of the reasons why we decided to move to Canada was because of Canada’s reputation of being welcoming to immigrants and valuing multiculturalism. I’ve traveled to North America many times prior to moving to Canada and the people were very welcoming and helpful. I was more worried about fitting in and adapting to my new environment rather than outright racism.
Have you experienced racism and how has it affected you?
I’m sad to share that I did experience one incident of racism and it was in the most unexpected place – a playground. It happened shortly after we arrived in Canada prior to Covid. On the weekends, we would bring our son (3 yrs old back then, now turning 5) to explore different playgrounds around Vancouver. My son wanted to go down a slide but 2 older white kids were blocking his way. One of the white kids told my son that he is not allowed to use the slide because the slide is only for white kids and that my son was ‘Japanese’. My son didn’t understand what ‘Japanese’ meant but he understood rejection and was very upset about it.
I think the whole event really shocked me and affected me more than it did my son because I understood the full meaning of what it meant to be rejected based on how you look. I remember worrying about whether this is something he will have to deal with when he goes to school and how will it affect him growing up here in Canada. After that incident, I am definitely more proactive in talking to my son about what makes us different and why it is important to be open-minded, accepting, and curious about others who are different from us.
It is reported that there is a disturbing rise in anti-asian hate crimes in Canada this year, largely due to the pandemic, have you or anyone you know recognized this to be true?
I have not personally experienced any discrimination based on my race since the start of Covid. However, constant news reports of such incidents happening all around Vancouver have been very disturbing and alarming. As a result, I find myself, feeling afraid and anxious whenever I go out on my own
In your travels, have you ever been mistreated because of your race?
I would not say mistreated but maybe there were some occasions where service staffs were a little less friendly towards us while we were traveling in Europe. Not something I would dwell on.
Here at Kosan we believe that travelling and appreciating/learning about other cultures is pivotal in the fight against racism; are there any beliefs/values/practices from your culture that you hold close to your heart and would like to share?
Malaysia is a multi–ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society, and growing up there has taught me a lot about being sensitive, tolerant, and respectful to others.
“Di mana bumi dipijak, di situlah langit dijunjung”
Literally translates to mean “where my feet stand, there is where I will uphold the sky”. This is a Malaysian idiom that means to follow the traditions and customs of the place that you are currently visiting/residing in. This saying really resonated with me. It is something that I practice personally whenever I travel abroad. I make an effort of learning as much as I can about the country and its customs so I do not accidentally offend someone while I’m there. As the world gets smaller, it is important that we all learn to respect, empathize, and be kind to one another.
Why did you choose the charity you did?
I believe that a future world without racism can only be achieved through long-term education and reframing the way we think about people who are different from us. The more you learn about other people and their cultures, the easier it is to bring down that mental wall that separates us from others and begin to truly embrace them. Hence, I would like to lend my support to the Canadian Society for Asian Arts, a nonprofit organization that promotes understanding and appreciation of the arts of Asia.
Could you explain your thought process behind the piece?
Here is my interpretation of the piece. Many people coming together to embrace, protect and rally behind the Asian community that is currently vulnerable. I always try to focus on the positive of a bad situation and to me, the best possible outcome is seeing previously divided communities coming together to protect a community that is currently vulnerable.
The flower is deliberately abstract and ambiguous… because the word Asian encompasses so many different cultures and I don’t think one type of flower can really truly represent all Asian cultures.
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