University of Toronto - St. George
Gần Mực Thì Đen, Gần Đèn Thì Sáng (Bringing Light to Ink)
IGNITE is an annual show hosted by UVSA Eastern Canada; it’s an amazing opportunity for our VSA community to get together and showcase their talents in celebrating Vietnamese culture through many means of artistic performances.
As well as learning from one another, IGNITE provides individuals with the experience in being part of a close-knit team during preparations on the largest VSA cultural event in the Eastern Canada region. This year’s show theme was Vietnamese teachings across the past, present, and future.
There’s a Vietnamese saying that warns of the influence of those around you and of one’s own reflection of these surroundings; “What’s near ink will stain [black], What’s near light will be bright” (in Vietnamese, “Gần mực thì đen, Gần đèn thì sáng”). Like many other proverbs, the original teachings of this particular proverb is quite simplistic, maintaining an association of dark vs. light, with good vs. bad.
Together with experimenting in cultural/creative arts, UTVSA took the opportunity to reflect and challenge the proverb, extracting different meanings relevant to their student lives. In a performance of traditional live music, Vietnamese poetry, lyrical dance, and acting, UTVSA prepared a story about an artist brought nearly to her breaking point by a haunting ink-creature.
This year was my third time participating in IGNITE with UTVSA, and my second year as the IGNITE director for UTVSA. I am nominating us because I have so much admiration for my family, I am a proud parent inviting others to learn about us and our mission! This performance came from the collective talents and love of our VSA, symbolic of a shared passion for Vietnamese culture.
It was not a person or prize motivating our rag-tag team of full-time students/inexpreienced performers to come together. Instead, we knew IGNITE was meant for us as a way to continue our efforts in learning about, and creating our own Vietnamese culture. As a VSA centered in Toronto’s multicultural downtown core, we know firsthand the challenges and blessings that come with diversity, the changes and movements of communities and culture, as well as the importance of dialogue between groups (e.g. youth-adults, domestic-international students, Vietnamese- others).
With our IGNITE performance this year, I am very proud that UTVSA was able to:
1) Share its unique colour with the other VSAs in our region (e.g. highlighting the many talents of our members, including instrumentation, sewing, dance, translating, writing, etc.);
2) Encourage fellow youth to not be afraid of thoughtfully challenging traditions (e.g. rather than writing a performance that explained our proverb explicitly, we used the performance to question the proverb’s teachings);
3) Motivate fellow VSAs to be more creative with IGNITE, a showcase that has been running for nearly two decades, yet whose formula usually follows a standard acting- singing-dancing-acoustic formula (e.g. we’ve experimented with various performance styles, including Vietnamese oppositional poetry, traditional Vietnamese instrumentation, and live music — to my knowledge, these have not been used in IGNITE shows before)
(((((Lastly, I would like to invite UNAVSA/other VSA regions to check out IGNITE! I think it is deserving of much more recognition.)))))