Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

M’goi/ Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude

唔該/多謝: 常用感情景口語

An Art & Community Initiative 使用藝術來促進社區文化
with projects by Lydia Kwa 柯溫愛,
Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍,
and a special window display directed by Mrs. Chang 張太

Curated by Tyler Russell

April 24th – June 14th, 2014
Gallery Hours: Tues-Sat, 11am-6pm
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 24, 2014, 7pm

The recent, ongoing transformation of Vancouver’s Chinatown has been happening at a very rapid pace. A series of new condo towers are under construction and a list of new businesses are opening up. Not to mention the growing presence of the visual arts including artist studio space, artist run centres, commercial galleries and your friendly neighbourhood public gallery: Centre A.  How are we to consider this process? How does the incoming community relate to and have relationship with the long established community of the neighbourhood? In some instances new comers embrace the old, retaining legacy signage or seeking other means to place a volume dial of their cultural expression. Others open up with distinct, sharply branded aesthetics that make no nod to the existing neighbourhood’s past or present.

In a capitalist society where the right to enter one space or another is dependent on little more than one’s ability to pay rent, are there rites of passage/entry, gestures and postures that should be adopted to pay respect?  As a commercial rent payer and a public art institution recently moved to Chinatown, Centre A is interested, on both institutional and personal levels, in ways one takes on a posture of gratitude and respect especially in instances where the act of being given to isn’t so direct and the right to receive isn’t necessarily one’s own.

A reflection on the two distinct ways to say “thank you” in Cantonese m’goi and do jeh, this exhibition considers rites of passage and gratitude in the contexts of urban transformation in Vancouver’s Chinatown, and, the psycho-social processing of inheritance, loss and change. In so being, M’goi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude’s participants, community engaged poets Lydia Kwa and Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon as well as neighbourhood elder Mrs. Chang help Centre A in its quest to discover its place in the geographic and cultural space it recently moved into.

Lydia Kwa 柯溫愛 is a well-respected poet, author and practicing psychologist who spends a lot of time in Chinatown and is concerned with its transformation. In July 2012 she read an article in the Vancouver Sun[1] about Canada’s first Chinese print shop Ho Sun Hing. Sensitive to the implications of the shop’s ultimate closure, and in a light meditation on shifting modes of cultural production Kwa purchased a selection of foundry type. Ultimately, using both Chinese and English type she created a series of playful works on paper that she later coupled with short poems, creating a deliberately unbound, self-published limited edition book entitled linguistic tantrums. For M’goi/Do Jeh, the original artworks from linguistic tantrums will be exhibited and members of the public will be invited to react to with poems of their own.

Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍 is a prairie storm of community building. Recently transplanted from Alberta, Lennon is a linguistically curious poet and community activist who has been vigorously engaged with projects aimed at creating spaces for intercultural dialogue and activating Edmonton’s Chinatown. Since her arrival in Vancouver last year, she has been a member of the Ho Sun Hing Project, a group including Kwa that aims to preserve some of Ho Sun Hing’s foundry type; and an integral part of Friends of 439, a group seeking to save the Ming Sun-Uchida building at 439 Powell Street. For M’goi/Do Jeh, in collaboration with linguist and Cantonese language instructor Zoe Lam and numerous neighbourhood partners, Lennon is presenting Saturday School – a series of neighborhood specific Cantonese language classes, the results of which will be progressively presented in the exhibition space and become the Living Language Studio. Once a week, this space will also serve as a pop-up resource centre, inviting visitors to imagine how a community space shared by groups engaged with cultural knowledge and community development might function. She is also curating a Youth Community Film Screening featuring recent films by Vancouver youth about life and change in Chinatown.

Then there’s Mrs. Chang 張太, a 96 year old neighbourhood elder who stopped by one day to let us know that our signage was insufficiently welcoming, and that Cantonese speakers would have little way of knowing what was going on. Herself the impetus for this exhibition, Mrs. Chang would like to see us improve the gallery’s frontage, and so working with her we are going to try to make it a little more welcoming to the public.

We hope you’ll join us.

Press release


Community Memory Map
Facilitated by Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍
Contribute your stories and photos of the neighbourhood.

Game of Couplets, a participatory poetry game by Lydia Kwa 柯溫愛
Daily with a special event on May 31 at 3pm

Saturday School 週末學校 (PDF)
10am-12pm, Saturdays, from April 26 – June 7
四月二十六日至六月七日, 逢星期六, 早上十時至中午十二時

Curated by Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍, with language instruction by Zoe Lam 林慧雯.

Learn Chinatown survival Cantonese and get oriented to the neighbourhood! The streets, shops and spaces of Chinatown will be our classroom and its people will be our textbooks. Classes will include: basic Cantonese greetings, numbers, getting around, how to order food in a restaurant and grocery shopping. We will do short field trips around the neighbourhood and hear stories about Chinatown history, community organizing, and historic and current relationships with the diverse cultural communities who share the space. Our final exam will be a grocery shopping expedition and collaboratively created meal.

7 classes: $40 for members, $60 for non-members, $9 drop-in.

齊齊來學習唐人街廣東話, 街名, 店名以至唐人街不同的溜達點都是教室, 該區的大眾就是我們的課本, 課程包括:用基本廣東話打招呼、數字、找地方、點菜和購物。我們將安排數次教室外學習和聆聽唐人街 (鹹水阜) 的歷史, 瞭解社區組織, 與多元文化團體過去和現在的關係。期終 考試將會是在超市購買食物和小組設計?頓飯活動中舉行。

Youth Community Film Screening (PDF)
Curated by Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍
May 10 at 3pm
Free admission

Poetry Reading by Lydia Kwa 柯溫愛 and Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍
May 17 at 3pm
Free admission



“M’goi/Doh Jeh exhibit at Centre A: April 24 to June 14”, Charlie Cho, Ricepaper Magazine, April 6 2014
“M’goi/Doh Jeh exhibit at Centre A | April 24 to June 14”, Kitty Ku, Schema Magazine, April 16 2014
“Centre A” Set To Offer New Cantonese “Chinatown Survival” Lessons”, Scout Magazine, April 24 2014
“Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon, la poésie au cœur de la communauté”, Anne Moscatello, La Source, April 29 2014
“Centre A Gallery considers the sites of a changing Chinatown”, Anastasia Scherders, The Source, April 29 2014
“‘Do Jeh’/Thank you to the Living Language Studio at Centre A”, Bard Suen, Hua Foundation Blog, May 6 2014
“M’goi/Doh Jeh exhibit at Centre A | Opening Reception Success”, Alex Florian, Schema Magazine, May 9 2014
“Centre A fosters intergenerational and intercultural space for Chinatown”, Melissa Fong, The Georgia Straight, June 9 2014
“Sites, Rites and Gratitude: Carving out a new, inclusive Chinatown through art and language”, Meghan Mast, Megaphone, Issue 154 , May 9, 2014.
[1] Vancouver Sun, “Video: Against all odds: the Ho Sun Hing Printing Company is still operating”,  July 26, 2012 (online) (accessed in March, 2014)