'Quarantine Qapsule' project showcases Asian-Canadian stories during pandemic

·3 min read
Toronto-based actor Nightingale Nguyen is the creator of the original Quarantine Qapsule. (Submitted by Nightingale Nguyen - image credit)
Toronto-based actor Nightingale Nguyen is the creator of the original Quarantine Qapsule. (Submitted by Nightingale Nguyen - image credit)

As arts and culture shifted online during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto-based actor Nightingale Nguyen wondered how Asian Canadians would remember this time.

"I was honestly just waiting for an organization or someone with influence to start a community initiative to champion Asian Canadians," she told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

But it turned out she would be the one to take the reins on that initiative.

Nguyen launched a project called Quarantine Qapsule, calling on Asian Canadians in her city to submit artwork reflecting on the pandemic, to be put into a digital time capsule.

Paintings, virtual reality galleries and short films were all collected as part of the project.

WATCH | Jason Wong's video submission to Toronto's Quarantine Qapsule

Andy Wong saw the work Nguyen was doing and was inspired to create a similar collection in his home province.

"I got jealous, a little bit, of this amazing initiative, and I was really inspired to try to bring it over to B.C.," he said.

Now, he's working with Emily Carr University of Art and Design to create a B.C. Quarantine Qapsule.

Wong is looking for submissions — paintings, photographs or anything that represents life as it is now.

Jieun June Kim submitted this work as part of the Toronto Quarantine Qapsule.  'Tiger is in the symbolic role of protector, guarding against the three disasters and the three agonies. I thought it was a perfect subject to paint at this difficult time.'
Jieun June Kim submitted this work as part of the Toronto Quarantine Qapsule. 'Tiger is in the symbolic role of protector, guarding against the three disasters and the three agonies. I thought it was a perfect subject to paint at this difficult time.'(Jieun June Kim)

"We'll even give a slight honorarium for these projects because it's incredibly important for us to pay artists who are brave enough or who are wanting to showcase their work," he said.

Wong wants to shine a light on feel-good stories, because day-to-day news can by heavy, especially in regards to anti-Asian racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, negative stories and projects won't be dismissed.

"It's a practice of self documentation, authorship and provides agency to the community to be able to tell their own stories in their own way," Ngyuen said.

"So [if] they want to share negative stories, if at least they're their voices and not through someone else's."

Andy Wong is the producer of B.C.'s Quarantine Qapsule.
Andy Wong is the producer of B.C.'s Quarantine Qapsule.(Submitted by Nightingale Nguyen)

The plan is that one day, the pieces will be on display in a physical space, both in Toronto and B.C. Nguyen and Wong said they've already been in discussion with the Chinatown Storytelling Centre about hosting an exhibit.

Nguyen said this past year and a half has been "transformative" for her.

"I never thought that I would be stepping up to do this because I was honestly waiting for someone to champion the Asian Canadian community. So just to look back and to do this, like all from my bedroom and to bring this project from one end of Canada to the other is just really inspiring and crazy."

Wong echoes those sentiments.

"This pandemic has taught me a lot about resilience and channeling positive energy in spite of a lot of negativity."

Listen to Andy Wong and Nightingale Nguyen's interview on CBC's The Early Edition here:

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