“Queering ang pau”

by Vale

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Artist Statement

Invisible Footprints 0.2 had a profound healing impact on me as a non-binary person with a Southeast Asian mother. I was inspired to envision and research for my own installation, where the traditional ang pau (Red Envelope) given at Lunar New Year was reimagined for trans communities and chosen families. Ang pau in unusual colours. Ang pau containing messages of encouragement instead of money. Ang pau containing unlucky sums of money, like a white envelope addressed to someone’s deadname and containing $4. Ang pau that are ritually burned for our queer ancestors.

Adapting this idea for the filmmaking focus of Invisible Footprints 0.3, I asked myself: What does ang pau mean to fellow queer and trans Southeast Asians? What did it mean for our elders? How do I connect my project to narratives beyond my own? I wanted to learn about how previous generations of queer East and Southeast Asians celebrated Asian culture and connected with heavily gendered traditions. Doing this would anchor “Queering ang pau” to an ongoing history.

I’m not sure I answered these questions, and my initial narrative concept for the film turned into something more scrappy and experimental as I tried—largely unsuccessfully—to do research and connect with other folks who knew about ang pau. In the end, “Queering ang pau” is more like a series of journal entries, written for myself as much as the viewer, and treating myself as a voice on queer Asian history as much as the archival materials I found and the people I interviewed. As a mixed-race person who was born in Canada, I worried a lot about being a “fake” Asian who was culturally appropriating or fetishizing myself. All of the footage for the film was shot in my apartment, which I share with my wife and dear friends. This wasn’t just for convenience; I wanted this setting to provide a backdrop of hope, warmth, and security in contrast to the messages in the film of longing and alienation. I hope that the viewers feel the effort, thought, and love that I put into making the film, as well as the love that I’m sending out to other queer Asians who sometimes feel fake, disconnected, and fragmented. 

Artist Bio

Vale is a queer, non-binary, multiracial person from Mississauga, living and working in Toronto on the traditional territory of the Anishnaabe, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee peoples. They have spent the past couple of years rediscovering their creativity and reconnecting with the art that they loved in the past. Their zines and poetry deal with questions of racial and queer identities, mental illness, finding community, and small happinesses.

Vale has shown their work at the 2SQTBIPOC Art/Zine Fair, the Asian Zine Fair, TCAF’s Zineland Terrace, the Sick & Disabled Queer Zine Fair, and "shift CTRL: Make It Mindful" 2017 showcase at the Art Gallery of Mississauga.

They have also performed comedy at “F*ck Sh*T Up Cabaret”, “Embrace”, “Super Gay Saturday”, “Cabbagetown Festival”, “QAPD Collective”, and “Up & Comers”.

In their downtime, Vale can be found playing video games, writing poetry, doing stand-up comedy, buying too many lipsticks, and eating noodle soup.

Some of their art is on Instagram (@coolartbadhair), which is also where they post irreverent fashion selfies (@cooltiebadhair). They co-run Peel in Colour: a monthly arts-and-crafts group for queer and questioning BIPOC folks in Mississauga (Instagram @peelincolour).

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The Making Of "Queering ang pau"

Initial inspiration:

  • Lai, Larissa. When Fox is a Thousand. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004.
  • Stewart, Cianna P. & Ma, Ming Yuen S., dirs. There Is No Name For This. 1997; San Fransisco, CA. https://vimeo.com/63067278
  • and the Invisible Footprints 2.0 showcase, 2018, at the Gardiner Museum

    “Where are we?” was inspired by - Unknown. Photographs of Gay Pride Day Toronto, Toronto. 1991. Photograph. The ArQuives, Toronto. (possibly donated by George L. Hall)

    "How do you say I will help you?” was inspired by - Li, Alan. "Gay Asian AIDS Project, Toronto," AMALGM Newsletter Special AIDS Issue, September, 1991, 35.

    "Some of my friends are nocturnal" was inspired by queer Asian event pamphlets
  • Gay Asians Toronto. "CelebrAsian '95 'Generations Together'." 1995. Pamphlet. The ArQuives, Toronto.
  • Gay Vietnamese Alliance. "GVA's Halloween Bash!" Date Unknown. Pamphlet. The ArQuives, Toronto.
  • Queer Asian Youth. "Asians Can Dance!." 2008. Pamphlet. The ArQuives, Toronto.
  • "Sit! And watch us shine brightly!" was inspired by the script, concept notes, and various Letters to the Editor following an article and review in a XTRA! magazine issue - Gay Asians Toronto. "CelebrAsian: The Show." 1988. The ArQuives, Toronto.

    "Underneath your shame, they tell me, there is love” was inspired by publications of ACAS and GenerAsians Together:
  • Asian Community AIDS Services, GenerAsians Together. "Looking beyond : for parents, family members and friends of Asian Lesbigays." 2000. Pamphlet. The ArQuives, Toronto.
  • Asian Community AIDS Services, GenerAsians Together. "Coming out : lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered." Date Unknown. Pamphlet. The ArQuives, Toronto.

    “We sit around a table” was inspired by:
  • Gay Asians Toronto. "Unity Among Asians." 1988. Conference programme. The ArQuives, Toronto.

    "One photo of the man in Singapore" was inspired by –
  • Unknown. Photographs of Gay Asians of Toronto members. Date Unknown. Photograph. The ArQuives, Toronto.
  • Unknown. “Ambush Singapore Gay Beach," PASSPORT, Date Unknown (possibly 1991).
  • Bowness, Gordon. "Tattling on the dancing queen," XTRA!, October, 1992.
  • Gill, Ernest. "Singapore Puts AIDS 'Carriers' Under Surveillance," ADVOCATE, January, 1986.
  • Duggan, Tim. "Sex, Drugs and Singapore," DNA, October, 2003.
  • Whiting, Kenneth L. "Singapore puts new face on old sleaze," Globe & Mail, January, 1993.

  • Siek, Hwee Ling; Tien-Li Chen (2013). Green Ang Pow and Purple Ang Pow in Malaysian Daily Life Practice(PDF). 5th International Congress of International Association of Societies of Design Research — IASDR 2013.

  • Feng Shui Store. "The History of the Red Envelopes and How you can use them during the Year of the Yang Metal Rat 2020." Feng Shui Store. 2019. https://www.fengshuiweb.co.uk/advice/angpow.htm

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malay_folklore
  • Malay Magic: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/47873/47873-h/47873-h.htm
    Sing-chen Lydia Chiang’s Collecting the Self: Body and Identity in Strange Tale Collections of Late Imperial Chinahttps://books.google.ca/books?id=lgSqRGTP7UoC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false
Using Format