Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Artist-In-Residence: Haruko Okano

Haruko Okano, installation view (partial) of Homing Pidgin (2006). Courtesy of the artist.

October 21 – December 14, 2019

Artist Haruko Okano‘s residency at Centre A, titled Homing Pidgin, introduces visitors to words and phrases she recovered from a hybrid trade language that was developed and spoken by early settlers during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Pidgin on the west coast incorporated snippets from Chinese, South Asian, French, and Chinook wau wau woven in with portmanteaus or Janglish (a fusion of Japanese and English). Through printed handouts and magnetic strips, along with a small table, chairs, and place settings symbolizing the meeting of two cultures, the viewers are encouraged to learn a little of a lost oral transition. This residency-installation offers an opportunity to experience the challenges of communicating when one is unfamiliar with another’s mother tongue.

Haruko Okano is a sansei (3rd generation) Japanese Canadian with over 30 years as a professional interdisciplinary artist. Signature characteristics of her practice are deep community engagement, collaborations in the arts and cultural activism. In 2000 she received the VIVA Award from the Doris and Jack Shadbolt Foundation in recognition of her artistic practice. She has extensive training in human rights, and anti-discrimination through the Justice Institute of BC, and the summer human rights college/University of Ottawa. She received her curatorial training through a two-year apprenticeship at the grunt gallery in Vancouver, BC.

Join us for the opening reception on Saturday, October 26, at 12 PM followed by the artist’s Ocean Flotilla workshop from 1 – 4 PM. Light refreshments will be provided.

Workshop: Ocean Flotilla

Free / By donation

Ocean Flotilla is the public participation component of a larger environmental art project started in 2011 by artist Haruko Okano. Ocean Flotilla invites the public’s help in making 1000 paper boats. The boats are made of unbleached kraft paper made water-resistant with Kakishibu, an organic multi-purpose medium from Japan. Each of the boats will be numbered inside so that participants will be able to track their boat’s journey by periodically checking the ocean flotilla BlogSpot. Because this workshop requires precise paper folding and waterproofing in 3 stages the participant age limit is 12 years or older. Younger children accompanied by an adult are welcome to contribute a message during the workshop or through the blog site (mentioned below). Space is limited and participation will be on a first come first serve basis. Visit http://oceanflotilla.blogspot.com for more information about a boat launch.

Panel: Speaking In Tongues

Free / By donation

Saturday, November 2, 2019, 1 PM – 4 PM

Join guests Woody Morrison, David Ng, Grace Eiko Thomson, and Dalannah Gail Bowen in a conversation that explores mother tongues and how their interactions can give birth to hybrid languages such as Japanese Pidgin, a language unique to the west coast of Canada. This conversation is part of “Homing Pidgin”, an interactive installation and residency at Centre A by artist Haruko Okano that explores how language is a living and historical component of all cultures. Speaking in Tongues begins with the different perspectives of the guest speakers then invites the audience to join in the conversation. This panel discussion is also a program of the Heart of the City Festival 2019.


Accessibility: The gallery is wheelchair and walker accessible. If you have specific accessibility needs, please contact us at (604) 683-8326 or info@centrea.org.

Centre A is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. We honour, respect, and give thanks to our hosts.