Banner melds cultural elements to herald lunar new year
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It’s time for the tiger to roar out and the rabbit to hop in as the city’s East Asian community welcomes the Lunar New Year.
Visitors to Chinatown will be greeted with 19 new street banners that mark the zodiac change in the Chinese lunar calendar.
The new banners were designed by Jurgen Ardicus, 31, winner of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre’s (WCCCC) annual competition, now in its eighth year.
He received an $800 honorarium for his winning design.
Ardicus works full time in the construction industry and dabbles in graphic design as a hobby, he shares.
This is the first time his work is being shown in public.
“Graphic design is not my main job, it’s something I do for fun, and on my down time as it relaxes me. This is my debut as a designer. I did some online courses a long time ago and from there I have slowly refined my art on a personal level. I have not done anything commercial before, and have never been paid for an art job. Winning the competition has planted a seed in me to learn more,” he says.
Ardicus storyboarded a number of ideas, taking inspiration from different sources as well as speaking to his friends and co-workers who are of East Asian descent for their input.
“They gave me an idea about the celebrations and how they would be united with family and what the celebration would look like in their motherland. There are a lot of important aspects of getting together. I wanted to display the art in a way that would not only convey Chinese culture but also blend in the Canadian community as well.
“I worked on it for a few weeks. I had a vision of what I wanted to represent. Chinese culture has interested me for a very long time, and I love learning from different cultures,” he says.
As well as the giant rabbit, his banner depicts lanterns, fireworks and a traditional lion dance, accompanied by figures playing drums and cymbals.
“I am happy to be able to give back to the community with a design that people love. I am looking forward to seeing the banners up,” he says.
His winning design was unveiled at an annual Lunar New Year banquet hosted by the Winnipeg Chinatown Development Corporation at Kum Koon Garden restaurant on Sunday, the first in-person new year event since the pandemic hit.
“It’s always a big highlight of the Lunar New Year Celebrations where we unveil the banner and invite the artists to talk about their design,” says Tina Chen, a member of the WCCCC board of directors.
Chen, who has been emceeing the event for many years on behalf of WCCCC says she is looking forward to eating good food and reconnecting with friends.
“It’s the first one we have been able to host since the pandemic and it’s a sold-out banquet. It’s a wonderful chance to bring the community together; so much of the culture is about coming together and food holds so much meaning, especially when starting the new year.
“The banquet is about recognizing the importance of people and relationships in our lives.”
The banner project has been active since 2015, says Grant Calder, public realm co-ordinator at Downtown Winnipeg BIZ .
“We have a call-out which goes out to various community groups through our website, social media and our partners. This year we had 33 submissions.
“Judging is done by a blind jury composed of seven members which include representatives from the Chinese community, residents of Chinatown, Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA), Winnipeg Arts Council and graphic designers.”
The banners will be mounted in the six square blocks bounded by Main Street, Princess Street, Logan Avenue and James Avenue.
The competition functions as an invitation for everyone to develop a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of the Lunar New Year, Chen says.
“Anyone who takes part in the competition is taking that time to reflect on how the banner art ties into Chinatown as an historic space and area in the city. It is rooted in cultural exchange and cross-cultural understanding. Also it’s a lot of fun having it as a competition,” she continues.
Ardicus’s winning design will hang in the city for the duration of the lunar year, replacing the current Tiger banners which will be converted to bicycle panniers.
“Year of Tiger banners will be decommissioned in tandem with installation of the rabbit banners,” Calder says.
“We have a partnership with the Winnipeg Trails Association, and they have a unique project, the Goal 5 Bike Project, which knocks down the barriers to cycling for racialized women. Once we decommission last year’s banners we will take them to the association where they will be fabricated into bike panniers.”
“I think this initiative to turn the banners into bike panniers is an exciting development,” Chen says.
“To make use of the banners in a sustainable way whilst supporting cycling culture and the women’s collective is exciting.”
The new zodiac banners will alternate with the current district banners which have been up for many years, Chen shares, and there are plans afoot to refresh the district banners.
“I am working with the Winnipeg Arts Council, and they will be commissioning contemporary artwork for complementary neighbourhood banners for Chinatown. The Call to Artists will be announced soon and available on the WAC website, winnipegarts.ca,” she says.
AV Kitching is an arts and life writer at the Free Press.