The artwork is a tribute to Co Chau, the mother of Maria Huynh (owner and operator), whose story of determination, hardship and passion is a constant source of wonder and inspiration.
In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the Huynh family were among hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes by sea. Having survived perilous journeys by boat, many families were forcibly stranded on remote Indonesian islands. Among them was Jemaja Island, where a makeshift home was set up by the refugees on Kuku Beach and was eventually discovered and supported by the UNHCR.
The photograph that is the centrepiece of this artwork was taken in 1978. It captures Co Chau smiling, proudly and happily behind the counter of her soup stall that provided congee, coffee and so much more, to her community. The beauty, joy and idyllic atmosphere of this amazing photograph is in stark contrast to the hardship and fear that must have been experienced by all the camps inhabitants.
From a distance of four decades, the power of this image remains: a sense of hope, compassion and of community in the face of enormous obstacles. This artwork is an attempt to honour and secure this image, this moment. A moment that has survived its own fraught, journey on a fragile square of photographic paper.
The joy and pride in creating and sharing Vietnamese food has also travelled through time. It has been passed down across continents, and through generations. It now exists here; in this artwork, in these walls that shelter and nourish its community. These are different times but the need remains. Placing recognition on the extreme struggles of survival while finding comfort in a warm meal provided by a mother of the community has been passed down and embedded into the Huynh family. Maria aspires to help others in her community to ensure that the experiences of her family isn't relived even if that's through a simple good meal that provides comfort of love in a brief moment of time.
This mixed media art piece is entitled Café Chau and was lovingly created by Tomoki Gomez, a Vancouver based artist and family friend who also has Vietnamese heritage. It was made on Lacquer, a substance which is native to Vietnam, being traditionally used to coat and protect items but also more recently used for innovations in painting and fine art. The original photo was reproduced in sepia to represent antiquity. It was printed and applied using a technique that causes the reprographic elements to move in and out of focus depending on the viewer’s position and the direction of light, an attempt to portray the subjectivity and elusiveness of beauty and of memory.
Gilded and etched copper leaf on Lacquer with printed elements.
Kibo Arts Projects 2020 by Tomoki Gomez
Community, Connection, Courage, Creativity, Change.