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Art plays role in fighting anti-Asian crime

By CHANG JUN in San Francisco | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-17 10:50
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Artists across genres gathered in the San Francisco Bay Area recently to display their photographs, paintings, sculptures and installations to denounce Asian hate crimes. They also hoped to raise public awareness about Asians' contribution to the United States since the 19th century.

In line with the Asian Heritage Month celebration in May, organizers in San Francisco hosted the Chinatown Thrives Because of You photo exhibition. It recorded everyday life in Chinatown since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the populous area in February 2020, and how citizens battled the pandemic and Asian hate crimes. 

A precious and unique place in America with a long history of Chinese immigration, San Francisco Chinatown was stricken by the coronavirus, economic stagnation and more debilitating, racial hatred, said David Chiu, a California state legislator who attended the opening ceremony on May 8. However, Chinatown's people have demonstrated resilience and perseverance, he added. 

Wang Donghua, China's consul general in San Francisco, said anti-Asian incidents are "man-made" disasters compared with the pandemic. "Some of the US politicians went astray and used the coronavirus as an excuse to smear China," Wang said. "Their wrongdoings not only bring harm to China-US relations but intensify tensions at home and put the lives of millions of Asian Americans in danger. We strongly condemn those anti-Asian crimes." 

According to a statewide poll that the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment helped administer, Californians who believe Asian Americans were "frequently or sometimes discriminated against" increased to 70 percent, 15 percentage points higher than in February 2020. 

In South Bay, the Silicon Valley Asian Art Center curated the show Situation: The Moments of Asian American Artists, which showcases 40 pieces of art by 19 artists of Asian descent throughout the month. 

The works reflect the plight Asian Americans are facing today, said Shu Jianhua, the curator. Regardless of differences in language, race and ideology, "we want to communicate in unison the message that Asian hate must stop", said Shu. 

Michael Arcega, an art professor at San Francisco State University, presented his 2007 installation work SPAM/MAPS: Oceania. Arcega dried, diced and pinned Spam luncheon meat to replicate US Army bases around the world on a map. 

The work originated out of his lingering curiosity, said Arcega, who frequently ate Spam luncheon meat during his childhood in the Philippines.

"I always wonder, why did I grow up eating Spam?" said Arcega. As he followed the notion of "you are what you eat" and got caught up with his identity after he came to the US, Arcega realized that "as a US military ration", Spam is deep in his heart as the "residue of the Philippines colonial era". 

From 1898 to 1946, the Philippines were caught in the Spanish-American War and became a US colony. In World War II, more than 70,000 US soldiers were stationed in the Philippines and heavily influenced the nation, including its diet. 

By mirroring the past through his work, Arcega said he hoped to "empower Asian Americans" by accepting their identities. "Any name-calling, racial hatred against people of Asian descent should immediately stop," he said. "We need to flip the toxic rhetoric."

Guan Dazhuo, using stone and a pair of worn gardening shears, created the Expressive Goat sculpture in 2020. The shears, at their widest opening, comprise the head of a goat with its mouth agape. 

"As if we could hear outcries of rage from Asian Americans (from Guan's work)," said Shu. "Under the current circumstances that we see continuous Asian hate crimes, we must not be silent."

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