Dr. Jennifer Lau is acting Associate Editor of Fête Chinoise, a multifaceted platform which celebrates Asian culture, looking to fill a gap in ethnic Chinese representation in Canada. The platform has been hugely successful in raising awareness of the variety in and depth of Asian culture in Canada (and beyond), as well as in giving the chance for diaspora to explore and connect with their heritage through high profile events, their annual magazine, and other initiatives.

Fête Chinoise has become known for their high quality modern Chinese exhibitions and publications celebrating storytelling, craftsmanship, and luxury. Most recently, their 2019 Signature Event was hosted at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The platform also showcases prominent individuals who are making differences in their communities as leaders in their respective fields. Lau loves challenging others’ perceptions and is also an engaging author of various articles and accomplished lecturer at the University of Toronto.

In this interview, Yinsey Wang interviews Lau on Fête Chinoise, her vision for the platform and her key passions and takeaways.

Photo credit: Tim Chin

YW: How did you come up with the idea of your platform?

JL: Fête Chinoise found a gap in ethnic Chinese representation that was modern, fresh, and innovative. As a platform, we want to inspire audiences with Chinese culture in ways that they have never seen before.

Many elements in Chinese culture are precious but if we do not take good care of them, curate them, and reinvent them for our generation, the next generation won’t have anything to look towards.

YW: You are passionate about Asian culture and determined to spread a greater understanding of it. What motivates you to do this and why?

JL: I was born and raised in Canada and have always felt connected to Asia through various media channels. It wasn’t until I pursued undergraduate studies in Asian Studies that I realized there was a piece of history that was waiting to be discovered and that there was a disconnect with my cultural heritage.

Eventually, I completed a doctorate about the connections between Canada and late Qing and early Republican era China to catch up on the years I had missed!

Travelling to Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou to conduct research for two and a half years forever changed my perspective on what we generally understand as “Chinese culture.” The heterogeneity of landscapes and the distinct flavours in each city motivated me to find more avenues to share with Canadian audiences who might not be able to interact and engage with Asia in the same way.

Photo credit: George Pimentel

YW: What has been your favourite event or collaboration as part of the platform so far and why?

JL: There are so many special moments when I look back at the Fête Chinoise archive. I will have to say this past year’s Signature Event at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) was definitely one of them. I wish I could relive that night again and again. I gasped as I walked into Walker Court, the main area under the iconic Frank Gehry spiral staircase, at the AGO.

I will never forget the Bamboo Moon Garden designed by Nous Design Group and Fête Chinoise, along with the beautiful Steinway & Sons piano at the centre of the garden. I had never seen the AGO graced with an Asian aesthetic before. And I felt that these moments at the gala really encapsulates the mission of Fête Chinoise: to empower us to deepen the connection between identity and culture.

YW: You feature prominent individuals of the Asian diaspora community as part of your platform, giving them a voice and a chance to inspire others. Who inspires you?

JL: It’s hard to name one person, but I would say philanthropists greatly inspire me. A few years ago, I was privileged to attend the David Foster Foundation Gala where every year they raise funds for families with children who require organ transplantation.

That night I witnessed countless individuals coming together to support the families in need. And that shared responsibility for our society really encouraged me as I thought about our own philanthropic platform that gives back to the community through collective power.

YW: What has been the greatest lesson as part of building the platform so far?

JL: Rome wasn’t built in a day. I feel blessed to be able to be part of a platform that has such large aspirations. There is certainly a lot of dedication and hard work required to make something great, but I’ve learned that much like writing a dissertation, there are certain elements you cannot rush through and you need many mentors to make it exceptional.

YW: Why do you think the platform has become so popular?

JL: Everyone yearns to know more about themselves, even if it’s an imaginary tie to a “homeland” they’ve never seen. For Chinese culture, sometimes it is because one’s access to Chinese is limited during their upbringing that they find it difficult to connect with their cultural heritage.

Though accessible social media, the annual magazine, and the signature event, I think Fête Chinoise really allows for interested individuals (despite their fluency in Chinese) to learn, to engage, and to experience Chinese culture in a whole new way. Everything we do is elevated and meant to inspire.

YW: The platform focuses on luxury, high-quality goods. What is your favourite piece so far?

JL: I really love handcrafted adornments. Recently, the Coloratura collection by the Cartier maison caught my eye as it is a precious rubellite carved into a lantern-shaped pendant — a nod to the Chinese festivals with all the beautiful lanterns that light up the night skies.

To learn more about Fête Chinoise, click here.

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