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With a Cautious Heart by Kristyn Wong-Tam

Blue and white porcelain plate by Ai Weiwei with images of refugees crossing the sea in boats
6 months ago

As part of the Ai Weiwei: Unbroken publication, we invited city councillor and human rights activist Kristyn Wong-Tam to respond to Ai Weiwei’s Blue and White Porcelain Plate (Crossing the Sea), 2017. You can find the interactive publication, which aims to document the exhibition while connecting its themes to Canadian voices and experiences, at the Gardiner Shop or online.

With a Cautious Heart | Kristyn Wong-Tam

Born on the island of Hong Kong, I was four years old when my left family for Canada. By choice we crossed an ocean, mountains, valleys, and fields to settle in a city we had never seen.

The matrix of geography created a tension that disrupted life, language, culture, and customs. At first the ground was in perpetual motion with the earth unstable, shifting and heaving in unpredictable directions.

From the Four Directions, we came to make Canada our own. Where consequences of fright and flight come together as a prophecy in search of home.

Rootless, awkward, and different. Disoriented outsiders voiceless, yet full of questions. Eyes wide open with a cautious heart searching, craving to belong (again).

On this land we have values. “Canadian” values. Values forged on the great shores and in boreal forests of colonization and generations of re/settlement.

This new world order is disorder. Global displacement runs high, and unlike my family’s border crossing, it is without choice. Nationalism, human rights violations, climate crisis surging across the nations and floating (dead) at sea. Breaking all boundaries.

Land. Finally landed.

Oh Canada. Will you receive thee, the way you received me?

Kristyn Wong-Tam is a city councillor and human rights activist. She’s a former gallerist and founding board member of the Toronto Biennial of Art.

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