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Hybrid Ancestry Public Arts Society (HAPAS)

Anna Ling Kaye - Festival Director of Hapa-palooza 2011


 by John Endo Greenaway

By the time Anna Ling Kaye was twenty, she had lived in ten different cities in eight different countries and had traveled through many more—mostly in Asia. Her father, a New York Jew,is a journalist, hence the travel. She was raised speaking mostly

English but learned mandarin early from her mother, who is originally from

Taiwan. Language was, she says, the tools she used to anchor herself in her dual cultures. “Having Chinese and English gave me access to mythology, culture, religion, contemporary media and of course conversation, ”she says, “and these continue to be the most important tools I have for connecting to my cultures.”

As she got older, Anna came to realize that her physical profile was different from her mostly-Asian peers, something she could justify by the foreign passport she held. When she began to attend university in North America, though, she realized that she wasn’t going to ‘fit in’ there either. For want of a better pigeonhole, most people assumed she was Hawaiian. At university she dabbled in a number of cultural clubs including the Asian American club, the South Asian club, and hung out at the Hillel Center, but none of those organizations resonated with her sense of identity. She can, she says, recall clearly the pivotal moment when she realized that there is a demographic that she does fit into:

“There was the 1993 Time Magazine cover, which featured a computer-generated composite of the many groups that formed the American public at the time. It was the

first time I really ‘saw’ another blended face, and recognized it as one not so different from my own.”

Despite her feeling of finally belonging to an identifiable demographic, though, she retained a sense of disbelief that faces like hers would ever become the norm. Then in 2006 she moved to Vancouver. It was a revelation.

“I realized the mixed demographic had critical mass, and more importantly, cultural capital. I remember the writer Wayde Compton asking whether I wrote about my duality, and this being one of the first times I realized that the mixed experience could

be approached in writing. I was so used to reading of people within singular cultures.” 

In early 2011, Anna, who by then was a member of the Asian Canadian Writer’s Workshop, attended Todd Wong’s annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, which featured a Hapa-theme that year. Patrick Gallagher, Jenna Chow and Tetsuro Shigematsu (a “Hapa-papa” she calls him) were emceeing, and 15-year-old Squamish fiddle player Jocelyn Petite was performing. Jeff Chiba Stearns had been invited to screen his documentary One Big Hapa Family. There was, she recalls, “a strong density of hapas. There was haggis and plum wine. One thing led to another and by the end of the evening we were all certain that the time for a Canadian Hapa arts festival had come.” It was Tetsuro Shigematsu, she says, who came up with a name for the Festival—Hapa-Palooza.

The timing for a festival of mixed race art and culture couldn’t have been better. The City of Vancouver was taking applications for its 125th anniversary Celebrations, and Anna felt their concept was perfect for this city of diversity, acceptance and hybridity.

Within a matter of weeks an application was thrown together and accepted by the grant committee. Out of the blue, Anna found herself Artistic Director of what the committee sub-titled A Celebration of Mixed Roots Arts and Ideas.

When Hapa-Palooza launches on September 7th, it will mark the culmination of months of planning and organizing, fueled by enthusiasm on the part of the organizers, performers and volunteers who are excited to be part of this ground-breaking event.

As she works at finalizing the lineup and getting details nailed down, Anne is gratified at the level of interest the festival is garnering, including a short mention in the New York Times. “The biggest challenge is harnessing the tremendous interest and goodwill

coming towards the festival, and finding roles that best fit people’s interests and passion. It’s also been a fun and interesting challenge to pull together an incredibly diverse pool of organizing and artistic talent into a set of cohesive events—but that is always the hapa challenge!”





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