Day 6

Vancouver artist celebrates the history of Chinatown through his late mother's letters

Paul Wong's project, Occupying Chinatown, is a celebration of the people who lived there and features his late mother's personal belongings.

Paul Wong's year-long project begins as the City of Vancouver apologizes to its Chinese residents

Paul Wong announced a year-long residency at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden while working on his project. (Vivian Luk/CBC)

By telling his mother's story, artist Paul Wong hopes to keep the legacy of Vancouver's Chinatown alive.

A photo of Suk-Fong Wong, Paul Wong's mother. (Submitted by Paul Wong )

Earlier this week, Wong launched a year-long art project called Occupying Chinatown.

The launch follows a landmark decision made Sunday, when Vancouver Mayor Greg Robertson delivered an official apology for historical discrimination against Chinese residents in the city.

The apology addressed historic laws that denied Chinese residents' basic human rights and placed significant restrictions on their everyday lives. Some of these included the Chinese head tax and being banned from voting, owning property and living in certain parts of the city.

In his art project, Wong plans to display items he found in his mother's house after she died last year. The belongings include 700 letters addressed to his mother by nearly 100 different people between 1946 and 2016.

Wong says he was struck by the letters, which offer a historic window into the lives of immigrants living in Vancouver's Chinatown — and the discrimination they often faced.

To hear Paul Wong describe his art project 'Occupy Chinatown' on Day 6, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.