I Am From Asia: An Art Exhibit

Originally published May 13, 2021. Last updated April 25, 2023.

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Welcoming Asian newcomers

In 2020, Nova Scotia reported an unprecedented rise in its population. We are now at a population of just under a million Nova Scotians. According to the Government of Nova Scotia report, between 2019 and 2020, a total of 6,239 immigrants arrived in Nova Scotia, the largest number the province had seen after the Second World War.

But, did you know that most immigrants who have chosen Nova Scotia as their new home are from Asia? The majority of new Asian immigrants to Nova Scotia were from China, the Philippines, India, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. Arabic is the top spoken mother language at home in Nova Scotia followed by Mandarin, Filipino (Tagalog), Persian (Farsi), Korean, Cantonese, and Nepali.

Many of these immigrants chose to stay in Halifax for varying reasons, such as resources that can support their growth in their new home. Halifax Public Libraries is among the active institutions that provide valuable newcomer services and programs. Halifax Public Libraries has consistently been at the forefront to welcome and create safe spaces for newcomers and immigrants. We will meet people, wherever they are.

Celebrating Asian Heritage 

Over the years, the Library, our community partners, and many cultural organizations, have come together to celebrate the cultural diversity across the region. One of these celebrations is Asian Heritage Month in May. We offer uniquely designed programs such as cultural performances, art shows, family-oriented programs, child-centred activities, panel discussions, and much more. We make a great effort to ensure everyone is included and celebrated.

In 2021, the celebration was designed to give everyone the opportunity to taste the richness of Asian culture, no matter how far you are. Our Asian Heritage Month Library planning team rounded up Halifax-based artists of Asian descent to take you through a visual experience.

A new exhibit (2021)

I Am From Asia is an art exhibit that aims to commemorate the significance of Asian immigrants' contributions to the cultural diversity and economic growth of Halifax. We are delighted to feature the participating artists who have committed their time and love for visual arts to make this possible. Some have even shared their personal stories as immigrants. These artists come from different backgrounds, ages, level of experiences and expertise, artistic viewpoints, and mediums, but all have one passion— creating.

We invite you to wander around Asia through their arts and their individual stories. You do not need to show us your passports, just bring yourself, and be transported to the beauty of these art creations.

“I am from Asia: an Art Exhibit” was live from August 1 to September 30, 2021 at the Wadih M. Fares Community Common on the Third Floor of Halifax Central Library, and some on the Ground Floor. Scroll to look back on the incredible artwork that was on display.

Carmen Lee and Chun Shing (Roland) Au, Hong Kong

Carmen and Roland are a couple who share a passion for theatre and visual arts. They came to Canada through a help exchange program in a different province, but their journey led them to an exchange at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Nova Scotia. The owner of the centre “became like our family in Canada.”

Shortly after, they moved to Halifax to try and make their transition to immigrating and settling here in Canada. They had their first Canadian debut in Halifax and discovered how friendly and kind the people in Nova Scotia are. They love living near the ocean, as they grew up doing the same in the Pacific coast of Hong Kong. They founded Theatre du Poulet in 2016,  and it has become the first theatre in Nova Scotia to be operated by Asian immigrants, as well as unique to the province.

Their interests lie in connecting political and social issues with art and using devising, puppetry, character masks, and physical theatre as a language-free method to reach the widest audience. They express that they felt the political climate in Hong Kong was going downhill, and that the freedom they used to have is harrowing. They could see that the suppression of freedom might have heavy impacts to the theatre industry.

They chose Canada because it is a country that would allow them to freely create their art and deliver the message they want to tell their audiences.

About Roland

Chun Shing Au (Roland) is the artistic director and co-founder of Theatre du Poulet, an award-winning theatre company based in Nova Scotia.

Since graduating with honours from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 2012, Roland has performed in over 20 productions as an actor in Hong Kong, Ireland and Canada.

As a puppeteer, mask performer, and physical theatre artist, he has undergone extensive training from many international programs: Character Mask and Movement Training by Familie Flöz - The 12th Flöz Summer Academy in Berlin; Puppetry Workshop & Object Theatre by Doc. Mgr. Marek Bečka in Prague; Animotion Puppetry Intensive Program by the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia; and The Poetic Body by Sébastien Brottet-Michel from Théâtre Du Soleil in France.

His work with Theatre du Poulet received two awards in 2018 for ‘The Best Newcomer Award’ at the Halifax Fringe Festival and ‘The Theatre Centre’s Emerging Artist Award’ at the Summerworks Festival in Toronto. In addition, Roland was also nominated for Outstanding Actor at The 9th Hong Kong Theatre Libre 2016-2017.

In his spare time, this actor likes to dabble in making sushi, playing the banjo and reading his favourite comics, One Piece.

About Carmen

Carmen Lee serves as executive director and co-founder of award-winning company, Theatre du Poulet. After graduating with First Class Honours in Arts, Events and Stage Management from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Carmen has managed and produced over 30 shows in both Canada and Hong Kong. With over 8 years of experience in production and stage management, lighting, sound and set design, and arts administration, she has led her team to award wins at the Fringe Festival in Halifax and the Summerworks Festival in Toronto. When she’s not making stained glass art at a studio or refreshing her mind after work at hot yoga, Carmen is most likely on a plane fulfilling her deep love for travel.

Website: www.theatredupoulet.com

Social media: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube: @theatredupoulet

Jinrong Chen, China

Jinrong Chen was born in Beijing, China in 1944. He graduated from the Middle School attached to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1962. Jinrong then proceeded to his postgraduate class of the Printmaking Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1980. He has served as a lecturer and professor in Central Academy of Fine Arts from 1980. He was a visiting scholar to NSCAD in 1990 and decided to immigrate to Canada in 1993.

Jinrong's artistic expression is in a variety of media such as watercolour, oil, printmaking, and especially, traditional Chinese painting.

He believes that works of art like paintings give us the opportunity to look for hints inside the artist’s life; and that the image is not the standard beauty, but it is the blank space that can lead the way to daydreaming.

In his oil paintings, Jinrong personally expresses his perception of life in Canada, as well as exploration of artistic voice and form of expression. His oil painting style is derived from his printmaking. The bright colours of the free, easy, and modern Chinese style create a powerful visual impact. Jinrong’s painting style is bright, novel, unique, and shows his personal charm.

Throughout his artistic career, he received multiple recognitions for his works including the  woodcut print "Moon and Sixpence," as the prize-winner for the National Excellent Illustration Award. His meticulously crafted works are widely collected by many individuals and groups in China and abroad, including the National Art Museum of China, the Liaoning Art Museum, Beijing Artists Association, the British Museum, and a university library in Paris. Individual collectors spread out from China, Sweden, Norway, Britain, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada to the United States.

Jeehye Choi, South Korea

Jeehye moved to Halifax with her family in 2015. "As we all know, Canada is a multicultural country. This is the main reason why my family and I moved here in Canada, primarily for my kids. They are mixed blood, so they would socialize well with anyone in Canada more than in Korea."

Jeehye’s attachment to visual art came from her formal education; she successfully completed her Graphic Design degree in Korea. She has actively participated in art shows in Halifax, including two with her friends at Keshen Good Public Library in 2017 and 2018. 

Instagram: J_art_hfx, opens a new window

Email: babikorean@gmail.com

Sunmi Eun, South Korea

Sunmi was born in Korea in 1981. She graduated from a visual design high school, and studied Industrial Art in college. She began her career as an art instructor at the same time she graduated from high school and taught students for a long time. She moved to Halifax in 2016 and is now teaching local children.

The subject she finds most attractive in her life is people. Sunmi finds pleasure in finding commonalities and differences through the appearance of people in Korea, Japan, and Halifax. Her most recent work is portrait. She works with acrylics, pencils, watercolours, and coloured pencils.

Sunmi believes that one can find beauty and interest in diversity, and that all people, and diversity deserves respect.

In her submitted work, “the girl in Hanbok”, she thinks that looking into people’s traditional clothing deeply can take you to their life and history.

Instagram: @sunart15jul, opens a new window

Lili He, China

Lili He studied Chinese calligraphy under the local artist, Yuande Li, when she was seven. Through this professional training, she won the first prize in the Union of University Calligraphy and Painting Festival in Shanghai. Writing calligraphy has become a part of Lili’s life. She also loves to teach children in the community.

She says that writing calligraphy gives her peace and makes her calm.

Lei Jiang, China

Born in Xian, an ancient city in China, Lei fell in love with Chinese calligraphy at an early age. He studied with two local calligraphers and mastered different scripts of Chinese writing. He won the first prize in Provincial University Calligraphy Competition in China and held his solo calligraphy exhibition in Victoria, BC. He also participated in several calligraphy and painting exhibitions in Halifax in the past Asian Heritage Month celebrations. Lei has been invited to give workshops and demonstrations at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University, and several branches of Halifax Public Libraries. He sits as the current head of the calligraphy group of the Chinese Art Club.

Email: Lei.Jiang_2010@hotmail.com

Inae Kim, South Korea

Inae was born in South Korea, where she obtained both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a certificate of Fine Arts teaching degree. She worked as an art teacher and a commercial artist. In 1996, her family moved to Canada to take up a new life. In the process of living in Canada, she has found the varied cultural experience rewarding, personal growth and expanded her understanding as an artist.

Inae’s paintings tell the story about her experience, emotion, and her love of creation. She is constantly inspired by the beauty that surrounds her, especially historical buildings, and colourful houses surrounded by nature.

Her paintings document what we often do not notice as we go about our daily routine and describe her sense of wonder for the beauty of her surroundings.

Jamie Lee, South Korea

Jamie (Jimi) is a self-taught artist who was born in South Korea and moved to Halifax in 2019.

She discovered her passion for painting through 106 days of travel to Europe in 2018. While traveling, she carried along her sketchbook and watercolour paint. She would do quick sketches of the beautiful scenery while travelling across Europe.

Jamie finds watercolour painting tricky, because one cannot start over once a mistake is made—compared to an oil painting where one can simply make a redo.

Painting brings her creative thought to the forefront and helps her to appreciate nature more.

Her artwork focuses primarily on landscapes in watercolour, and she also likes including some cartoon characters into her works as well.

Email: jamievalentines@gmail.com

Yumiko MacIsaac, Japan

Yumiko is from Japan and moved to Halifax in 2008. She graduated from a special calligraphy school — 淡海書道文化専門学校- Tankai Calligraphy Culture College—in Japan. She is a licensed calligraphy instructor. A member of the Japanese Society of Halifax described her as “teacher of teachers” and a master of Japanese art of calligraphy writing.

According to Yumiko, the art of making Japanese Calligraphy brings her peace of mind. She is very keen in sharing her passion for black and white art.

The current planning team of the Asian Heritage Month from the library is closely working with Yumiko to develop an online and in-person Japanese calligraphy tutorial session, so please check our Asian Heritage Month webpage regularly for program updates.

Mark Maestro, The Philippines

Mark Maestro was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada in 1983. He received his BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1993, and he continues to live and work in Dartmouth. Maestro served as a jury for the Canada Council of the Arts in Ottawa, and also received art grants from the council.

Maestro’s works have been shown in solo and group exhibitions across Canada and internationally including the prestigious National Biennial of Ceramics. He also participated in exhibitions in different parts of the world including one in his home country at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila, in Tokyo, Japan “Crafting Economy Show”, and in the United States with a solo exhibition at the Philippine Consulate in New York City and a group show Salon 2000 at the Limner Gallery in New York City.

Mark works at our Halifax North Memorial Public Library. He also sits as one of the team members of Halifax Public Libraries’ Arts & Culture Strategy team.

Website/Facebook: Maestro Art

Asifa Morshed, Bangladesh

Asifa is a sixteen-year-old girl who grew up in Bedford. She’s Bangladeshi-Canadian, and is currently enrolled at CPA High School under the IB diploma program. Asifa spent many formative vacations visiting Bangladesh with family and friends when she was younger. She enjoys her time around downtown Halifax and tries to be as involved in the communities around her.

Asifa’s submission to the art exhibit at the Library was inspired by an old Bengali folktale about a poor fisherman who caught a magic fish that would grant him any wish. He let the fish go instead, but his wife came back and asked for many things—like wealth to take them out of their poverty-stricken life. She enjoyed her new wealth until she accidentally turned her child into gold. Then, she returned to the lake to beg the fish for her old life back.

Asifa is a new talent in Halifax to look out for.

Contact: Bangladesh Community Association of Nova Scotia (BDCANS), opens a new window

Young Sook Park, South Korea

Young Sook Park was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. She was gifted with the ability to capture the beauty of nature, expressing it in her own unique but soft ways. Her artistic talents were recognized at an early age—when she was just a teenager, she won a regional trophy.

Young left her country and moved to Halifax in 2007. While adjusting to a new chapter of her life, working as a dedicated mother of three, and as a hair designer; she did not give up, but only continued her passion for art.

She found that watercolour suited her best, after exploring acrylic for a long time, as the water expresses a flowing sense of freedom. She goes with watercolour most times, but she continues to use acrylic and also enjoys sculpture.

Her artwork displays her characteristics: independent, passionate, hard working, yet delicate.

Young is excited to share her talent and fine pieces with others. As a member of Canadian Art Society, she has also been part of numerous exhibitions at The Chase Gallery.          

Instagram: @applelovepark, opens a new window

Mahnaz Roshan, Iran

Mahnaz Roshan was born in Iran, and left her home country at the age of 15 because of religious persecutions. She earned an art degree in Spain and travelled extensively before coming to Canada.

Her fascination with art stems from her childhood, and she has always been passionate about portraying deep feelings and emotions behind each piece of art that is produced.

She moved to Canada in 1986, and has been involved in many community works. Mahnaz is a professional artist who resides in Halifax, where she runs several art workshops in the city focusing on painting, team-building, and bringing artists together from various cultural backgrounds, as well as a wide age range -- from children to seniors. A lot of Mahnaz's inspiration in art comes from travelling, nature, and photography. She specializes in pastels, oil paintings, acrylic painting, and pencil art.

Mahnaz now spends a lot of her time volunteering in the community to help promote local art. She regularly donates paintings to the Breast Cancer Society of Nova Scotia; and participates in the annual 'Paint the Town' fundraiser in Annapolis Royal. She also donates paintings to the Red Cross, UNICEF, and more. She currently sits as the president of the Atlantic Spinners Art and Dance Society where she plans lots of events with the aim of promoting local artists.

Website: https://www.mahnazfinearts.com/