News / COVID-19 , Art

Archiving Asian-Canadian stories with Quarantine Qapsule

14 October 2020 / by Sam Dharmasena (author)
Quarantine Qapsule graphic (photo: Nightingale Nguyen and Christie Carrière)
Quarantine Qapsule graphic / (photo: Nightingale Nguyen and Christie Carrière)

Quarantine Qapsule (QQ) is a digital archive of the Asian Canadian experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. QQ is accepting submissions until Oct. 23 from Asian-Canadians who are over 18 and living in Ontario. The project believes that art is created anywhere in any style and submissions are meant to be a low-stakes opportunity for creative expression. Participants can send a video, music, or visual art and receive a $50 honorarium for their contribution. Once submissions close, the capsule will be curated by grassroots organization Tea Base and housed on the Myseum Toronto website. There is also a QQ mentorship program and panel discussion that complement the archive. CJRU spoke with some of the folks making QQ happen, creator Nightingale Nguyen and Tea Base’s co-creative director Christie Carrière.

(Nightingale Nguyen)

(Nightingale Nguyen)

QQ is focused on stories of resilience, hope, and self-discovery. Nguyen says the idea for the archive was born out of frustrations with the recent violence and stereotypes towards Asian communities. She wanted to challenge the dangerous narratives associating Asian communities with COVID-19. The Toronto-based performer says she never thought she would be leading a project like this. Nguyen expected a notable organization or celebrity to launch a project like QQ because the need seemed so obvious to her. She reached out to Tea Base when she wasn’t seeing that kind of digital archive emerge. Not long after that, Myseum Toronto got involved. Myseum presents engaging programs and experiences that showcase Toronto’s history, spaces, culture(s), architecture, and people.

Nguyen and Carrière both expressed concern around the erasure of Asian narratives in the retelling of the COVID-19 pandemic. They explain that QQ allows today’s Asian-Canadians to speak for themselves and for their stories to exist alongside historical representations of the pandemic.

“This is such a huge, pivotal, historical moment in our life. It’s going to be written about it in our history books … We have to question, who’s going to be recording this? ” Nguyen adds.

Nyugen’s collaborator, Tea Base, is an art space located in Toronto’s Chinatown. Carrière says a lot of their work before the pandemic was focused on bringing people together through community programming. For most of 2020, Tea Base has been evolving and working on digital projects such as QQ. Carrière says the move online has brought new opportunities when it comes to community engagement.

(Christie Carrière)

(Christie Carrière)

“We’d really like to build bridges between, not just Chinatowns, but any Asian-Canadian communities. If you’re that one Asian kid in an all white town and you come across this project through this virtual universe, you still belong in the Asian community whether or not you live in Chinatown,” Carrière adds.

Nguyen and Carrière ultimately hope that QQ humanizes the Asian community to the broader Canadian community. At the same time, they hope fellow Asian-Canadians can find joy and healing in the archive’s existence.

To learn more about the archive and make a submission, click here.
To hear more from Nightingale Nguyen and Christie Carriere, listen to the interview below.


CJRU The Scope at Ryerson · Archiving Asian-Canadian stories with Quarantine Qapsule

The author

Sam Dharmasena

CJRU Journalist, DJ and more. @roshanie__

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