Folk Fest

FOON YAP

Vinciane De Pape
2020-11-29

For classically-trained violinist and vocalist FOONYAP, creating music has become a spiritual practice. Raised in a conservative, traditional Chinese-Catholic household, this wasn’t always the case for the Calgary-based musician.

“I started playing violin at the age of four,” she explains. “It was something I had to do. I was put in a box to excel in a very specific way.”

Music has since evolved for her into an exercise in intention, appreciation, and being fully present in the moment. It has also become a way to develop self-compassion and compassion for others.

Like many of us, for FOONYAP 2020 has been an important year for learning—and unlearning.

“What I’m working through right now is starting to recognize the ‘other’ in myself,” she says, “And balancing that, knowing that positive and appropriate action needs to be taken.”

This exploration of experiencing both privilege and marginalization has been a driving force in her collaborations. She is currently involved in a project with the Calgary Arts Development called Aisinna’Kiiks—a Blackfoot word that means “those who draw.” This project brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members and artists to form statements of hope based upon reconciliation.

“Right now, I’m focusing on Indigenous perspectives, and I am learning a lot,” FOONYAP says. “It’s important for people to remember that the project of Canada was based on white hegemony and that those roots have repercussions that are still visible today.”

Part of this exploration in identity has also been a reconnection to her Chinese heritage and culture.

“Growing up, I really wanted to push my culture away because my experience of it within my family was so fractious. It was something I wanted to create distance from,” she says.

She remembers walking through Calgary’s Chinatown as a child and being embarrassed at how dirty and run down it was. Getting back in touch with her roots allowed her to learn more about the history of Chinese migrant workers in Canada, and reconcile some of her own shame.

“I learned later that it was dirty and run down because of generations of poverty. That poverty was institutionalized and people could not afford to keep up their space.”

FOONYAP is now involved in Tomorrow’s Chinatown, a City of Calgary initiative involving the community to develop a cultural plan to inform development in Chinatown.

“I’m appreciative that City Council recognizes the historical significance of Chinatown and its distinct needs and values that can guide its evolution.”

FOONYAP encourages anyone interested in Calgary’s Chinatown to participate in the project’s events, which are open to the public.Looking into 2021, FOONYAP is working on a dance collaboration with choreographer Pam Tzeng and a commission by Kensington Sinfonia.

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