On February 24, 2017, The Unwelcome Dinner commemorated the 130th anniversary of Vancouver’s first anti-Chinese riot in Vancouver with guest speakers accompanied by a thematic food and drink menu. Commissioned by Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, the event was situated in the Roedde House, built six years after the riots in the former forest that the Chinese labourers were eventually brought back again to clear.
Local activist Hayne Wai spoke about the institutional racism that the Chinese have confronted since that time, raising questions about who has the right to call this place home. Food critic Stephanie Yuen gave an account of the history and representation of Chinese cuisine in the city. Executive Director Kevin Huang talked about his work with the Hua Foundation and their engagement with youth culture among Chinese Canadians and beyond to build awareness and activism for food security and cultural traditions. And acclaimed chefs Wesley Young and Jacob Deacon Evans created a menu influenced by archival menus from the late 1800s in Vancouver, while speculating on the relationship between the Roedde family and their Chinese houseboy.
The evening created opportunities to address the conditions surrounding the founding of this city, reflecting on what has changed since then, and what attitudes and values that exist today that have changed or are eerily similar, especially in relationship to Vancouver’s rise as a destination for, and anxiety about global capital, labour, land ownership and the movement of peoples.
Unwelcome Dinner Pamphlet
Photos by Cecilia Yuan Liu