Family history: Paul Wong exhibition inspired by 700 letters written to his mother

Suk Fong Nay Ho Mah? Suk Fong, how are you?

When: Jan. 12 – Feb. 24

Where: Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden

Tickets and info: vancouverchinesegarden.com.

When his mother died at age 91 in 2017, artist Paul Wong made an amazing discovery. In her bedroom, he found 700 handwritten letters sent to her from relatives in China over a period of more than six decades.

The letters sent him on a journey into the history of his family and of Communist China. He has transformed and reframed the letters as part of an art exhibition called Suk-Fong Nay Ho Mah/Suk-Fong, How Are You? at the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown.

Suk-Fong is Wong’s mother’s first name. Nay Ho Mah is the traditional greeting of people from Toisan or Taishan. It’s the coastal county to the southwest of Hong Kong that produced most of the immigrants to Canada from China in the 19th and 20th centuries. They spoke Toisanese, a dialect of Cantonese traditionally heard in Vancouver’s Chinatown now being replaced by Mandarin. The exhibition also honours those original pioneering Chinese Canadian immigrants.

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Some of the 700 letters written to Paul Wong’s mother Suk-Fong Wong that he will use to create art works during a year-long residency at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Classical Garden. It’s part of the city of Vancouver’s 2017 artist-initiated public art works program. [PNG Merlin Archive]

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Some of the 700 letters written to Paul Wong’s mother Suk-Fong.

“The letters are 65-plus years of this extraordinary, dramatic history of China written to this woman whose voice is not there,” Wong said in an interview in his studio.

“These are letters written to her — her voice is completely hidden.”

Paul Wong.

Wong has been an innovator in visual and media art in Vancouver since the 1970s. Known for making unique site-specific art, his multimedia work often takes on controversial topics such as sexuality, race and death.

Like many Chinese picture brides of the era, Suk-Fong was introduced to her groom — Wong’s father — by letter in the late 1940s. When she first met him in Hong Kong, Suk-Fong fainted. She

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Entertainment

      

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