Fighting to make voices heard: York Region arts award winner donates for women’s rights and racial justice

·2 min read

Aurora-based photographer, poet and journalist Yafang Shi recently donated her prize money from the York Regional Council’s Award to two non-profit organizations.

Her artwork, “Fire,” in the form of a photography collage of Women’s March and Rally against anti-Asian Racism, paired with a poem, has been showcased at AGO’s online group exhibition “Portraits of Resilience.” “Fire” is also the winner of the Resiliency Award of the York Region Arts Council’s inaugural YR ARTS AWARD this year.

Shi decided to donate the $1,000 prize: $500 to the Canadian Women’s Foundation and $500 to the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, to support their causes for women’s rights and racial justice respectively.

“My works have been on and for women’s rights and racial justice. I would like to give the prize money back to the community for the important causes for women’s rights and racial justice,” Shi says.

Her documentary photography on Women’s Marches in Toronto in 2017 and 2018, Washington, D. C., in 2019 and London, U.K., in 2020, has been exhibited in Canada and China.

In addition to her documentary photography, Shi had worked on art photography with the same weight of socio-political message as to her documentary photography.

Shi’s virtual photography and poetry exhibition “Women’s Voices, Censorship and Resistance” has been showcased at the Aurora Public Library and the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival 2022.

Women’s Voices, Censorship and Resistance presents symbolic images of flowers and barbed wires/fences paired with a poignant yet fierce poem, Shi explains.

“This exhibition brings the viewers the awareness of the censorship and oppression women face when they speak out and their tenacious resistance in authoritarian states," she said, adding that it also calls viewers’ attention to the barriers women, especially women of colour and immigrant women, face when they try to make their voices heard and their fierce fights for getting heard in the western democratic societies.

The physical version of this exhibition at the Aurora Public Library scheduled for March 2021 was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is pending the completion of the renovation project at the library.

Shi’s previous works, the poem “Sister Flowers,” won the first prize in the Aurora Public Library's One Book One Aurora writing contest in 2021 and the poem “Threads, Rainbows and Auroras” won second place in the same writing contest in 2020.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun