Become a Cultural Navigator

Become a Cultural Navigator

Words to remember: Pancouver’s year in quotes

"I love my characters—all of their weaknesses and their strength, and the way they navigate their world," says Iranian-born and B.C.-based playwright Aki Yaghoubi.

As 2023 draws to a close, we’re highlighting memorable, thought-provoking, and entertaining quotes from Pancouver’s first full year. All of the comments below appeared in our articles since January 1, 2023. We hope you take as much pleasure reading these quotes as we had compiling them. Happy New Year!

Quotes on artistic expression

Anthony Shim by Lawrence Cortez cropped
Anthony Shim’s Riceboy Sleeps received six nominations for Canadian Screen Awards. Photo by Lawrence Cortez (@lawrencejcortez).

“If I get to create a character based on my mom, I want to make sure it does her justice. She can go watch it and go, ‘That’s good; that’s accurate; that’s honest.’”

— filmmaker Anthony Shim

Aysanabee by Jen Squires
Aysanabee always dreamed of being a musician, but his grandmother urged him to have a Plan B, which is why he worked as a journalist prior to recording Watin. Photo by Jen Squires.

“I’m just standing on giants—the Indigenous artists that came before me.”

— musician Aysanabee

Isabel Kanaan
Isabel Kanaan co-created the comedy series Abroad on OMNI TV.

“Comedy is inviting, but it is all about the truth as well, so this makes people ponder on what they’ve just watched. People come for the laughs, stay for the thought-provoking questions, and keep coming back for the heart.”

— actor and writer Isabel Kanaan

Shana Myara by Bill Pusztai
Shana Myara won rave reviews for Well Rounded. Photo by Bill Pusztai.

“Standup is kind of like a high-wire act. Or maybe like juggling with knives. You have to get so many things right to be good.”

— writer and director Shana Myara 

Photo by Chloe Lam.
Sarah Hin Ching U. Photo by Chloe Lam.

“I want people to know that it’s also beautiful to be neurodivergent. Because days when I can harness that sensory energy and when I can focus, it’s like I feel everything so deeply and passionately. And that experience is so rich and it’s so inspiring that sometimes I felt like it’s not a disability.”

— dancer and choreographer Sarah Hin Ching U

Sherezade Panthaki
Sherazade Panthaki visited Vancouver to sing Handel’s Messiah at the Orpheum Theatre.

“I loved vocal music of all kinds but I never really felt like my voice identified with singing Verdi and Puccini. Somehow, when I discovered early music, it was like I had come home. It felt so natural and instinctive. I had a sense that I understood the style in a way that I almost couldn’t explain.”

— soprano Sherezade Panthaki

Ziyin Zheng
Ziyin Zheng played many roles on-stage in Shanghai, but Queens of the Qing Dynasty is the actor’s first Canadian film.

“I’m always very fascinated in women’s history because—although I have a male body—I do feel I carry more of the ying, or feminine energy.”

— actor Ziyin Zheng

Aki Yaghoubi hopes to elevate understanding of Persian culture with her new play Parifam.

“I love my characters—all of their weaknesses and their strength, and the way they navigate their world. I feel like I’m responsible for their future. It’s like you grow this baby and now they are out in the world but you’re worried about them. They’re not that independent from you yet.”

— playwright Aki Yaghoubi

Shruti Ramani
Shruti Ramani incorporates Hindustani classical melodies with jazz harmonies in Raagaverse.

“There are traditionalists in the Hindustani world and there are traditionalists in the jazz world. Not everybody is happy about the marriage. So, my intention is basically for the western audience to indulge in Indian music because I’m coming halfway. I’m giving them harmony, which they are familiar with.”

— jazz singer Shruti Ramani

Rita Ueda Danilo Bobyk
Rita Ueda’s new chamber opera is called I Have My Mother’s Eyes: A Holocaust Memoir Across Generations. Photo by Danilo Bobyk.

“It’s really easy to get tied up with getting the notes right, getting the rhythm right. But really, the opera singer’s job is to deliver the emotional content.”

— composer Rita Ueda

Nike Sharma by Joshua Berson
As B.C.’s attorney general, Niki Sharma is working with Indigenous leaders to create a more equal justice system. Photo by Joshua Berson.

“There’s a video game called Just Dance that I’m very weirdly good at.”

— Attorney General Niki Sharma

Jorelle Almeda
Behind Jorelle Almeda’s zany side lies a very keen intellect.

“I know several people on YouTube who can do Mariah Carey voices so impeccably. We’ve grown as a people to be able to mimic voices really well and sing really well.”

— actor and writer Jorelle Almeda

Amanda Sum photo by Reagan Jade
Amanda Sum. Photo by Reagan Jade.

“This sounds a bit silly, but I grew up with the Barenaked Ladies a lot on the radio. I always kind of chuckled at the jokes that they threw in. And I think that has been influential on me.”

— theatre artist and musician Amanda Sum

Ovi Mailhot
Ovi Mailhot’s artistic career took off during the pandemic.

“Now, I get to do these amazing projects and share the beauty of Coast Salish art with the people of Vancouver. That really blows my mind.”

— Seabird Island Band artist Ovi Mailhot

Kristin Fung
Kristin Fung’s newest EP is “In the Garden”. Photo by The Pauhaus.

“There’s something very divine about creativity if we open ourselves up and allow ourselves to be just the instrument—almost an empty vessel—just being filled by goodness. That’s a deeper message of ‘You for You’. And on the surface, it’s just a really fun song to groove along to.”

— musician Kristin Fung

Ann Fu and Momo Wally & Roops Pet Photography
Ann Fu put her dog Momo at the centre of her children’s book. Photo by Wally & Roops Pet Photography.

“Mo was resting on the window sill with her eyes closed, nose twitching, washed with dusk light, and it was so beautiful I wanted to capture the essence of that moment. The rest simply followed.”

— visual artist Ann Fu

Quotes on discrimination

Yvonne Wallace
Yvonne Wallace wrote her newest play because she wanted to elevate awareness about the consequences of “othering” people in Indigenous communities.

“They see me as white-presenting. And so, at some point in my life, I have to stop engaging with that argument and just be settled in the fact that I am Indigenous and that’s how I see the world. How people see me is…not my problem to fix.”

— theatre artist Yvonne Wallace

Carmen Aguirre said something profound about systemic racism. Photo

“The thing about systemic racism is that it is a system. So a systemically racist way to argue with somebody who speaks up, like myself, is to make it about the individual.”

— actor, author, and playwright Carmen Aguirre

DZI..AN included a balafon in her installation at the Libby Leshgold Gallery. Photo by Charlie Smith.

“I was the only coloured kid in school until I was 18. What I experienced was that the white people would consider me Black while the Black people would consider me white.”

— interdisciplinary artist DZI..AN

Kwaku Okyere
Kwaku Okyere co-directored Fairview with Mindy Parfitt at the Cultch.

“It is a white world that we live in. And in the queer Black body that I have—that I’m so grateful for, that I love being in—I’ve had to navigate that in various ways to varying degrees of success.”

— theatre director Kwaku Okyere

Ma-Buhay creator Joseph Sevillo
Joseph Sevillo wrote the book and lyrics for Ma-Buhay! Filipinos Singing For Their Lives.

“With 27 years in the business of musical theatre and more than 30 professional contracts under my belt, l have never seen a musical in Winnipeg that featured Filipinx artists playing Filipinx. And with Winnipeg having the highest population of Filipinx per capita, it was time to create a lane for our local talents. It’s a gift for my community.”

— theatre artist Joseph Sevillo

Olumoroti Soji-George by Arlo Havixbeck.
Olumoroti Soji-George is artistic director of Gallery Gachet and curator of the Black Arts Centre. Photo by Arlo Havixbeck.

“We are working on this understanding that Blackness is not a monolith.”

— curator Olumoroti Soji-George

Rebecca (Becky) Bair
Rebecca (Becky) Bair hopes that her Curly Mapped installation on the Anvil Centre will encourage New Westminster residents to think about what’s missing from their city’s official history records.

“Blackness is broadly about joy and love and community.”

— visual artist Rebecca Bair

Emily Jung
Emily Jung’s new play, Dead Korean GIrl Comedy Show, is being developed through a rice & beans theatre residency promoting multilingual productions.

“Before we came to Canada, our tae kwon do teacher got me and my brother black belts with our names on it. He said, ‘If kids are being racist and they’re trying to bully you, you show them this black belt.’ ”

— theatre artist and playwright Emily Jung

Joleen Mitton
JB the First Lady designed this dress worn by Joleen Mitton. Photo by Patrick Shannon.

“We knew we were Native. But we didn’t partake in any practices or ceremonies, not until much later. At the time, it wasn’t safe to be Indigenous, especially on the block where I came from.”

— Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week founder Joleen Mitton

Ben Pires and Jason Pires
Ben Pires and his son Jason, who’s the morning co-anchor on Global News BC, share a love for journalism.

“I’m a Canadian. I don’t call someone a British Canadian.”

— retired journalist and communications specialist Ben Pires

Jade Music Fest Aiko Tomi
Aiko Tomi’s fun-filled songs encourage self-acceptance.

“I would get eyelid-shamed from fellow Asians, which is really messed up. I remember taking metal objects and trying to scrape wrinkles into my eyes.”

— musician Aiko Tomi

Quotes on communities in the world

Photo by Pedro Augusto Meza
The co-founder of rice & beans theatre, Derek Chan, created Happy Valley to focus public attention on the thriving spirit of Hong Kong before recent crackdowns. Photo by Pedro Augusto Meza.

“Cantonese is a core, core element of the Hong Kong identity. Even down to our very Hong Kong-specific idioms and slangs that just evolve so fast—and our swear words!”

— theatre artist Derek Chan

Eylem Kaftan
Eylem Kaftan’s A Day, 365 Hours screened at the Vancouver Turkish Film Festival.

“Turkish women can really be a model for the world with their strength, with their courage, with their struggles, and with their perseverance. They are a model for modern women.”

— director and journalist Eylem Kaftan

Jessie Sohpaul
Jessie Sohpaul’s art has been inspired by historical injustice, including the theft of the Kohinoor diamond.

“We were always aware of atrocities that came with Indian history. So, for me, if I use a lot of colour, I almost feel a little bit like I’m celebrating what I wouldn’t celebrate.”

— visual artist Jessie Sohpaul

Van Lefan
Vancouver musician Van Lefan recorded her most recent music video in Taiwan.

“Those forces—colonialism, imperialism, and occupation—have impacted pretty much everybody at this point. So, when we see it happening to other people, whether it’s war or genocide, I think we have a responsibility not to close ourselves off to it. Not to be numb to it and not fall for the media that tries to make us dehumanize each other.”

— singer-songwriter Van Lefan

Huu Bac Quach
Huu Bac Quach went from being a baby in a refugee camp to a multilingual multi-instrumentalist.

“The industry now tends to use…‘global music’. But for me, I’d like to use the word ‘world music’. I think it applies well because I never liked the division between western music and the rest of the world. For me, a Bach fugue or jazz music is world music, too.”

— musician Huu Bac Quach

Lorelei Lyons and Ken Robillard
Lorelei Lyons and her husband, Ken Robillard, have worked hard to generate awareness about Métis history and culture.

“I was so proud of all that beadwork on my moccasins, my doe skin, my mukluks, and my gloves with the string through it. You never want to lose your gloves.”

— Métis knowledge carrier Ken Robillard

director and writer Ellie Foumbi
Ellie Foumbi’s film Our Father, the Devil has won 34 awards.

“The thing [former child soldiers] feared the most was that they were somehow so damaged that they were unlovable because of what they had done. This is why reintegration into society is so hard and why there is such a high suicide rate. I thought to myself: ‘The antidote to this is unconditional love.’ ”

— filmmaker Ellie Foumbi

Irwin Oostindie
Dutch BC director Irwin Oostindie helped TAIWANfest present its programming this year.

“Genocide requires settler denial. So, once you break the bubble of settler denial in your life, then you understand and empathize with the victims of genocide.”

— urban planner Irwin Oostindie

Tennyson King by Jen Squires
Canadian Folk Music Award nominee Tennyson King sings in English and Mandarin. Photo by Jen Squires.

“When I go to Southeast Asia to play music, I’m not thinking about how can I make the most money possible. I’m finding how I can connect to the culture through the music and with locals and local musicians.”

— musician Tennyson King

Carmen Rodriguez
Carmen Rodriguez is one of thousands of Chilean exiles who made a new life in Canada. Photo by Alejandra Aguirre.

“I think what made our presence here different from other immigrants is that we were very politicized. We were very aware of what was going on not only in Chile and Latin America but everywhere.”

— poet and journalist Carmen Rodríguez

Khim Hipol
Khim Hipol won the Audain Travel Prize last year.

“We are free from colonizers and yet also culturally, we are so embedded to them.”

— visual artist Khim Hipol

Sabrina Rani Furminger by Wendy D
Sabrina Rani Furminger says that helping people can become addictive. Photo by Wendy D.

“When we talk about white supremacy, it’s not coded language for me calling everybody racist or my guests calling people racists. We’re talking about structures that were built in the colonial landscape.”

— podcaster Sabrina Rani Furminger

Viking MelanieTeichroeb
Nobody messes with Melanie Teichroeb when she becomes a Shield Maiden. Photo by Bill Pope.

“Along with the DNA testing that they’ve done on this woman warrior in Sweden, they’re doing DNA testings on grave sites all over the world. And they’re finding woman warriors in almost every culture that people are buried.”

— theatre artist Melanie Teichroeb 

Ricardo Khayatte
Ricardo Khayatte stands beside one of the paintings in his series called The fragility of darkness.

“Until my undergrad, I never really, really, really thought about how this world has been shaped by patriarchy,”

— visual artist Ricardo Kyahatte

Rebecca Baker-Grenier
Rebecca Baker-Grenier presented her first full line at Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week in 2022.

“I think making Indigenous fashion more accessible and at a lower price point is important. Because for me, wearing something that represents Indigenous identity can be so powerful.”

— fashion designer Rebecca Baker-Grenier

Alicia Chen
Artist Alicia Chen created a self-portrait for a TAIWANfest exhibition called It’s Me and Wǒ.

“Witnessing the advancements of Canadian and Taiwanese women on a global scale and offering support to fellow women achievers has been a healing process, addressing the scars of my childhood.”

— visual artist and curator Alicia Chen

Raugi Yu
Raugi Yu’s most recent role has been a giant frog in Pippa Mackie’s ‘s new play, Hurricane Mona.

“What I know now, without a shadow of a doubt, is that I’m Asian. When I went to theatre school [and] in the first 10 years of my career. I didn’t know it. I was really auditioning as if I was a white person.”

— actor and director Raugi Yu

Emergence: Out of the Shadows
Artist Jag Nagra is one of those profiled in Emergence: Out of the Shadows.

“My art and finding my identity have gone hand in hand. It’s like the chicken or the egg. I don’t know which one came first.”

— visual artist Jag Nagra

201. Mobile - Chris Dodd
Chris Dodd. Photo by Nanc Price.

“Hearing loss is a spectrum. Many people assume that someone who is Deaf cannot hear anything but that’s not true. Also, the same for speaking ability. Some people who are Deaf are comfortable with using their voices, where others choose not to use them at all. Some people who are culturally Deaf and fluent signers can actually hear well with the use of hearing aids. However, the degree of deafness does not determine where they fit within the hierarchy of identity.”

— theatre artist Chris Dodd

Zahida Rahemtulla by Marjo Wright
Playwright Zahida Rahemtulla wrote The Wrong Bashir as a farcical comedy, but it also includes some deeper messages about a community in transition. Photo by Marjo Wright.

“When communities migrate it’s often not just language or culture that’s lost, but also a certain way of being, which can happen when any community that’s more communal changes. I was really interested in that question because I grew up seeing those contrasts.”

— playwright Zahida Rahemtulla

Ghinwa Yassine
Ghinwa Yassine’s major vocation is her art, but she’s also bringing people from across Southwest Asia and North Africa together as director of strategy with the MENA Film Festival in Vancouver.

“I also feel there are big challenges within the arts community for my art to be understood or valued in the way that it could be if I am in the Arab world. And in the Arab world, it might be rejected because it’s a bit too challenging. Maybe what I’m trying to say here is that I would love for people in Vancouver to have more curiosity. It’s as simple as that.”

— anti-disciplinary artist Ghinwa Yassine

Van Dang. Photo by Sabrina Miso Creative.
Ricecake CEO Van Dang established queer Asian party spaces in Vancouver. Sabrina Miso Creative photo.

“I like to call it the Queer Asian Revolution. Because when I was starting Ricecake, a new collective in Toronto was starting another queer Asian party called New Ho Queen. And then, New York has also been throwing a party called Bubble Tea.”

— drag artist Van Dang

Margaret Grenier is artistic and executive producer of Dancers of Damelahamid. Photo by Chris Randle.

“When you hear elders singing in some of the old recordings, they’re using wooden spoons and pots because we didn’t have any drums at that time.”

—choreographer and dancer Margaret Grenier

Photo by Rebecca Roberts/Zee Zee Theatre
Rahat Saini. Photo by Rebecca Roberts/Zee Zee Theatre.

“My family is Sikh. I would say I am Sikh-leaning.”

— actor Rahat Saini

Jacob Rajan Photo by Ankita Singh
Jacob Rajan plays seven characters in In Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream. Photo by Ankita Singh.

“There’s some delight in finding differences in people. But at the end of the day, it’s really how scarily similar we all are. This is the upshot of most of our plays, if not all of them.”

— actor and playwright Jacob Rajan

Tom Su violin
Tom Su has played violin in seniors’ homes in Burnaby and in Taiwan, as well as for dementia patients in Burnaby Hospital and for kids in a children’s hospice in Montreal.

“Music has no accent.”

— violinist Tom Su

Deep thoughts

Ruby Singh
Ruby Singh was nominated for a JUNO Award in 2023.

“I always love being in the present, but knowing that there’s this past that informed us and this future that we are informing.”

— musician and artist Ruby Singh

In addition to directing and writing her upcoming feature Akashi, Mayumi Yoshida will also act in the film.

“If you don’t take time and make sure your values—your integrity—is there in the process, then it’s going to show up in the final result.”

— filmmaker Mayumi Yoshida

Helen Knott by Tenille K. Campbell.
Helen Knott shares deeply personal insights in Becoming a Matriarch. Photo by Tenille K. Campbell.

“What does it mean to fully embody Indigenous joy and to be kind to our bodies? For me, that comes from a healing space of looking at ways that we’ve learned to dissociate and compartmentalize throughout generations in order to survive. And then coming back to body in this new way.”

— author Helen Knott

215. Desktop - Ann Mortifee
Ann Mortifee.

“I’ve been reading Carl Jung’s book on serendipity and realizing I’m the queen of serendipity. So many extraordinary adventures have come out of following the bread crumbs through the forest and not being afraid to go where the forest and nature and life meet you.”

— singer-songwriter and writer Ann Mortifee

Suddenly Slaughter
In Suddenly Slaughter, director Aryo Khakpour plays an immigrant director of a theatre production.

“If I say a few words and you hear it from the other side of the phone—and you understand it on some level—this is already a miracle, let alone going through this machine of language and discussing it.”

— theatre artist and filmmaker Aryo Khakpour 

Gavan Cheema. Photo by Kajal Singla
Gavan Cheema says that the Sikhi concept of seva goes hand-in-hand with democracy. Photo by Kajal Singla.

“When I think about engaging in anything that has to do with community, it comes from a place of seva. I think democracy and seva go hand-in-hand. You can’t necessarily have an effective democracy if everybody isn’t engaged, if everybody isn’t informed, and if there isn’t any sort of buy-in into public discourse.”

— theatre artist Gavan Cheema

Jacqueline Teh
Jacqueline Teh cowrote three of the five songs on Sammy Jackson’s Juno-winning “With You” EP.

“It’s very easy to be self-critical, to compare yourself with other artists that are up and coming, but every single person is on their own journey.”

— musician Jacqueline Teh

Pura Fé likens what’s happened in Saskatchewan to Central America. Photo by Clément Puig.

“Water connects everyone. That’s not just in the Western Hemisphere. That’s the whole friggin’ planet.”

— musician Pura Fé

Phebe Ferrer
Phebe Ferrer wants to introduce Pinxy/a/o folks to languages from the Philippines other than Tagalog.

“I think it’s important to celebrate the diversity of languages, cultures, and experiences of people in our community to avoid homogenizing ourselves and being too rigid with our definitions of identity, especially when living in Canada or places outside of the Philippines.”

— researcher Phebe Ferrer

Geoff Berner
East Van accordionist Geoff Berner decided to seriously study Yiddish in his late 20s and early 30s.

“Language is culture. Language is how we speak. That’s what Judaism is kind of about—’in the beginning was the word.’ We don’t just live in the world. We understand the world and mediate it through language.”

— musician Geoff Berner

Tuktu founder Rustam Sengupta
Rustam Sengupta founded Tuktu Care Inc. after trying to get errands done for his aging parents.

“I do believe that we are all here to serve a purpose, which is beyond monetary value and beyond physical aspirations.”

— entrepreneur Rustam Sengupta

Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.


Take Action Now

Pancouver fuels creativity and promotes a more inclusive society. You can contribute to support our mission of shining a spotlight on diverse artists. Donations from within Canada qualify for a tax receipt.

Share this article





Related Articles

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

© 2023 The Society of We Are Canadians Too Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions

We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.