At QAF’s Queerotica, everything is sex, except sex, which is power

Written by Kaila Johnson, The Ubyssey

Bisexual lighting — saturated beams of blue, pink and purple — coated the stage of the Queer Art Festival(QAF)’s Queerotica: Literary Readings on July 6 at the Sun Wah Centre. Four different writers shared their work on stage surrounding the theme of “the masc & femme we wear.”

Rather than simply reading aloud steamy poetry, Queerotica complicated the erotica genre with questions around how our authentic sexual selves are disguised and warped by colonialism and white supremacy.

One of the featured artists, Aly Laube, was unable to attend in-person and shared her collection of poems via a YouTube video with event attendees. Their collection, titled “Gay and Confused,” mentioned U-Hauling, the common Queer experience of thinking you’re in love with a friend, and R&B artist Teyana Taylor’s ballroom-inspired track “WTP.”

Kyle Shaughnessy spoke of his experiences as a Two-Spirit Trans person of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry. His introduction flowed into a non-fiction work about deciding to go back in the closet for his grandmother’s funeral. Shaughnessy described how he did not want an unfamiliar name to be a barrier to connecting with his family in their mourning. Still, he didn’t sacrifice his transmasc gender presentation to attend her service. Even when dressed up as yourself, there can still be parts of you in hiding.

Janice Esguerra, a recent graduate of the UBC Bachelor’s of Fine Arts creative writing program, shared poems and a piece of nonfiction. In the excerpt of nonfiction, she described her relationship to religion and what it would be like meeting god in a Chinatown bar.

Esguerra made attendees laugh during her final poem, “religion is whatever you do on your knees,” with the stanza, “because sex is just another way/to finish/each other’s sentences/and lord knows i’m tired/of commas.”

Elmer Flores shared a collection of poems which highlighted the frustration that BIPOC Queer people can feel towards white gays with works titled “fuck you, you fucking fuck” and “another poem about a white man.” In the former, he also described how his white classmates have been praised for using “fuck you” in their poetry while Flores was criticized for doing the same.

“I think this is the event where I’ve heard the most f-words in my life,” joked QAF artistic director Mark Takeshi McGregor after Flores’s set. By playing with the multiple meanings of “fuck,” Flores’ collection of poetry grappled with how oppression and animosity can bleed into sexuality.

UBC theatre production and design alum Laura Fukumoto kept this sentiment alive by starting her set with the phrase “fuck Canada day.” Musicality oozed through their collection of poems. She broke out a harp that was found in the alleyway by their apartment to elevate the feeling of haunting — QAF’s 2022 theme.

During their last poem, which was inspired by an AURORA song, Fukumoto had the audience hum two tones throughout the reading.

The warmth of the bi lighting and the hums of the audience provided a blanket of safety for attendees to listen and let the artist’s words wash over them.

Lesbian vampires and Queer almost-horror at Reel Eerie

Written by Makyla Smith, The Ubyssey

Pride Month 2022 had no shortage of Queer-oriented art; some funky, some flamboyant and some straight from the surreal Salvador Dalí playbook. In Vancouver, the world-renowned Queer Arts Festival (QAF) provided all of the above.

On June 26, QAF put on a showcase of Queer-created horror films called Reel Eerie, curated by CS Fergusson-Vaux and Ben Siegl. Between monster-fucking and more monster-fucking, the showcase was wildly entertaining — despite the fact that most of the shorts could be better described as “lightly-macabre” than “horror.”

Monsterdykë , described to the audience as a “portrait of desire examining trans-lesbian love and longing,” started the showcase off with a bang (pun intended). Directors Kaye Adelaide and Mariel Sharp established from the outset that “there are only two genders: monsterfuckers and cowards.” While that bold claim might lose other crowds, the QAF audience’s reaction was an enthusiastic applause.

What followed was essentially black and white gothic tentacle porn, filmed on 16mm film. Monsterdykë was seemingly a fan favourite, bringing a blush to even the most closeted monster-fucker. Its humour, horror and outrageous sexuality combined the greatest aspects of films like Haxan, Nosferatu and maybe even some Deadpool if you squint.

Next came Tj Cuthand’s You Are A Lesbian Vampire: a short which was essentially Dracula, reimagined as a satirical commentary on the insularity of the lesbian community. However small Vancouver’s lesbian community can feel when you run into three exes in one awkward night out, it stands to reason that the immortal lesbian community would be even smaller.

Similarly, U-Haul lesbians are infamous for going in hard on commitment, but for vampires “forever” really means… forever. It really makes you think: instead of turning your girlfriend into a vampire, you might want to turn your cat into one instead to save yourself hundreds of years of drama.

Audience roars of applause followed Joshua Lam’s Monkey See, Monkey Do, a suspenseful whirlwind of Queer Asian longing — featuring a boogeyman, a hilarious fictional magazine called “Hunks of Vancouver” and all the campy horror thrills of a Wes Craven classic.

A personal favorite was Monika Estrella Negra’s Bitten, A Tragedy, which explored racism in the Queer community. The film follows Black vampire Lydia’s mission to eradicate racism within the bloodlines and legacies that intertwined with her own. Lydia’s long memory as an immortal served as a creative allegory for intergenerational trauma.

When she comes across a micro-agressive rave-goer, Lydia is taken back to a moment of violence and murder between her ancestor and a white woman. A macabre and enthralling depiction of human sacrifice ensues. Murder, deceit and witchcraft come into play, as does a strict callout to those who believe that their Queerness negates their white privilege.

Bitten, A Tragedy‘s creative and poignant integration of horror tropes with social commentary made it one of the more captivating films of the evening.

Representation in Queer media has and always will be a battle, with white and cis men monopolizing mainstream narratives. When Queer media chooses assimilation over pride, non-binary, lesbian and POC narratives lose out. Showcasing diverse, weird and freaky Queer art in such a well-known outlet as QAF gave me hope for a new era of Queer films as creative explorations into rich experiences of our broad community.

Reel Eerie’s journey of almost-horror and monster porn showcased the importance of Queerness in media and reminded all of us that, much like lesbian vampires, Pride Month never really ends.

Queer Arts Festival’s Vanishing Act reaches fully realized curation, at Sun Wah Centre to July 8

New Delhi’s Adwait Singh curates the fest’s signature art exhibition under creative direction of QAF founding artistic director emeritus, SD Holman


Queer Arts Festival presents Vanishing Act in partnership with Centre A: International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, On Main Gallery, and Griffin Art Projects to July 8 at the Sun Wah Centre

AS THE 2022 Queer Arts Festival pulls into its final week, its flagship curated visual-arts exhibition has expanded into its fully realized installation.

Vanishing Act first opened at the start of this year’s fest in June, but the multi-floor exhibition has just expanded onto yet another level of the Sun Wah Centre within Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, giving people the chance to experience the show in its entirety before the fest wraps up.

New Delhi-based curator Adwait Singh worked under creative direction of QAF founding artistic director emeritus, SD Holman, for Vanishing Act.  The exhibition features nearly 20 artists spanning South Asia and its diaspora.

Vanishing Act brings people face-to-face with their own Frankensteins. Singh’s curation asks viewers to “behold the hulking vessel of modernity, where the only hope for a future is a ghostly one, the only inheritance a poisoned gift.” 

“Through a survey of queer artistic practices from South Asia and beyond, the exhibition will bring forth apocalyptic-revelations about radical forms of hospitality, sociality and empathy that are fed by the consciousness of a catastrophic co-becoming,” Singh says in a release.

Featured artists include Andrew McPhail, Aryakrishnan Ramakrishnan, Areez Katki, Bassem Saad, Charan Singh & Sunil Gupta, Elektra KB, Fazal Rizvi, Hank Yan Agassi, Hiba Ali, Imaad Majeed, Omer Wasim, Renate Lorenz & Pauline Boudry, Renuka Rajiv, Shahana Rajani, Sharlene Bamboat, Syma Tariq & Sita Balani, Syrus Marcus Ware, and Vishal Jugedo.

More information is at QAF.

60 Vancouver arts events in July 

By Steve Newton, Georgia Straight

THE IMITATION GAME: VISUAL CULTURE IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE Exhibition surveys the extraordinary uses (and abuses) of AI in the production of modern and contemporary visual culture around the world. To Oct 23Vancouver Art Gallery.

KINKY BOOTS Tony Award–winning musical that celebrates compassion and acceptance. To Jul 31Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. From $43.

XICANX: DREAMERS + CHANGEMAKERS / SOÑADORES + CREADORES DEL CAMBIO Exhibition showcases, for the first time in Canada, the rich traditions of 33 Xicanx artists. To Jan 1Museum of Anthropology at UBC.

BEADED NOSTALGIA Exhibition exploring the use of contemporary beadwork as a way of honouring the past. To Oct 23Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art.

GHOSTS OF THE MACHINE An exhibition about humans, technology, and ecology, curated by Elliott RamseyTo Aug 14Polygon Gallery. By donation.

YEOMANS TRILOGY: ENDURING SPIRITS EXHIBITION Multi-media collection of works by Haida artist Don Yeomans, wife Trace (Haida + Ukrainian), and their son KyranTo Jul 15Coastal Peoples Gallery. Free.

WE WERE SO FAR AWAY: THE INUIT EXPERIENCE OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS Travelling exhibition uses first-person narratives and archival images to tell stories of the Inuit residential school experience. To Nov 27Vancouver Maritime Museum. $13.50 adult/$11 senior.

TAPESTRY OF CHANGE: INUIT ART IN CONTEXT An exhibition of Inuit textiles, prints, and flat artwork from the collections. To Oct 2Vancouver Maritime Museum. $13.50 adults/$11 seniors.

COMMON GROUND EXHIBITION Artists Sara-Jeanne BourgetRobin Gleason, and Mark Johnsen explore the built-up boundary between body and earth in the urban environment. To Jul 30Cityscape Community Art Space. Free.

THEATRESPORTS Two teams of improv comedians compete for the laughs and support of audience judges. To Aug 27The Improv Centre. $24.50-$31.50.

UNINVITED: CANADIAN WOMEN ARTISTS IN THE MODERN MOMENT Major exhibition gathering more than 200 works of art by a generation of painters, photographers, weavers, bead workers, and sculptors. To Jan 8Vancouver Art Gallery.

TRUE TO PLACE: STÍMETSTEXW TEL XÉLTEL Exhibition curated by artist and muralist Xémontalót Carrielynn Victor (Stó:lō) examines the artistic practice of 10 Northwest Coast Indigenous artists. To Mar 19Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art.

LOVE YOUR MOTHER: JENNIE THWING Jennie Thwing uses animation, sculpture and installation to create imaginary narratives that reference the confusing world we live in. To Jul 21Port Moody Arts Centre. Free.

START SOMEWHERE ELSE: WORKS FROM THE COLLECTION Collection exhibition centring around Krista Belle Stewart‘s video installation Seraphine, Seraphine also includes works by Rebecca BelmoreBrian Jungen, and Lawrence Paul YuxweluptunTo Aug 14Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

QUEER ARTS FESTIVAL 2022: HAUNTINGS Three weeks of dynamic performance, music, theatre and literary events. To Jul 8various Vancouver venues. Free-$30, festival passes $69.


Events to not miss at Queer Arts Festival 2022

ByPeak Web

By: Yasmin Vejs Simsek, Staff Writer

The Vancouver Queer Arts Festival (QAF) is in the top three list of LGBTQ2S+ arts festivals world-wide and features multimedia exhibitions, music, rooftop parties, and more. This year it returns to an in-person programme from June 18–July 8 with the theme “Hauntings.” Artistic director Mark Takeshi McGregor defines the theme as an exploration of “what frightens us, with liberal doses of profundity, humor, and camp.” The festival takes place in different arts spaces around Vancouver, with most of its events hosted at the Sun Wah Centre in Chinatown. 

Here are four events to look forward to at this year’s Queer Arts Festival:

HAUNTINGS: Pride in Art Community Show

For the first time ever, this community arts show is teaming up with the queer-led James Black Gallery to showcase art from local LGBTQIA2S+ artists. The Pride in Art Community Show is a staple at the QAF, and every year its name honours two-spirit artist and co-founder of Pride in Art SocietyRobbie Hong. HAUNTINGS will feature works from artists such as stunning digital artist Avery Chace, and multi-medium, macabre inspired artist Braden Scheck.

When: June 20–July 8, Wednesday–Saturday from 12:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. 

Where: The James Black Gallery (144 E 6th Avenue)

Vanishing Act

Vanishing Act is a curated visual art exhibition featuring almost 20 artists from the global queer community! It’s mainly focused on the Global South and its diasporas. The exhibition fits extremely well with the theme of Hauntings, as the curators ask the audience to “face our own Frankensteins.” It also fits well with Vancouver, our very diverse and talented city. Plan your visit for July 2 if you want to tag along on a guided tour by the exhibit’s curator, Adwait Singh, and creative director, SD Holman.

When: June 18–July 8, Wednesday–Saturday 12:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Where: Sun Wah Centre (268 Keefer Street, third and fourth floors)

Curator Tour: July 2, 3:00 p.m. and reception at 5:00 p.m. 


Queerotica brings you a night of literacy and is the perfect event for you bookish types out there. You’ll be enjoying readings from local writers who will challenge how BIPOC queer bodies are fetishized, projected, and eroticized. It will also explore the effects of masking or revealing one’s true self under colonialist supremacy. This event is sure to stand out with its focus on harrowing realities felt throughout the BIPOC queer community. 

When: July 6, 7:00 p.m. (door opens at 6:30 p.m.) 

Where: Sun Wah Centre (268 Keefer Street, Rooftop)

Glitter is Forever 

This rooftop party is the festival’s closing event, and not one to miss! I imagine there will be loads of glitter — and what better way to end the QAF. You’ll be able to see the art that’s been displayed throughout the festival as you make your way up to the party that will be featuring music and drag performances. Members of the Vancouver-based Asian drag family, House of Rice, will be performing, including the drag mother herself, Shay Dior. See you there!

When: July 8, 7:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: Sun Wah Centre (268 Keefer Street, Rooftop)

Tickets are purchased for each individual event with the ones mentioned being by donation or included in the festival all-access pass (priced at $69). You can find the link to their Eventbrite page for tickets on their website.

Bijuriya brings together drag artistry, South Asian culture, and social commentary at the Queer Arts Festival

Quebec-born interdisciplinary artist Gabriel Dharmoo unveils a joy-filled full-length drag show


The Queer Arts Festival presents Bijuriya at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on June 28 at 7 pm.

UNLESS YOU’RE FLUENT in Hindi, you’re not going to grasp the full import of Bijuriya’s name and ambition on first meeting—even if the Montreal-based drag artist’s moniker can be parsed in both of Canada’s official languages. One could, for instance, read the name as a Desi-fication of the bilingual term “bijou”, which the online Oxford dictionary tells us means “small but attractive and fashionable”.

Bijuriya’s stage presence is anything but small, although her creator, Quebec-born interdisciplinary artist Gabriel Dharmoo, is of medium height and preternaturally slim. She’s certainly fashionable, if one’s taste in couture runs towards sequins, latex, and lamé. And her attractiveness is unquestionable, based as it is on a combination of razor-edged cheekbones, exuberant self-confidence, and a sense of humour that can pivot from the beautifully surreal to the elegantly cutting.

But what viewers who don’t share Dharmoo’s South Asian heritage are missing is that Bijuriya’s Hindi name means “thunderbolt”. The seeming incongruity between “unsettling blast from heaven” and “intricately worked trinket” is an integral part of Dharmoo’s stagecraft, as are the various ways in which different audiences will perceive his first full-length drag show.

Onstage, the gifted singer, cellist, and composer explains in a telephone interview, Bijuriya articulates “a kind of inner dialogue between what it is to be a drag artist and what it is to be a composer trained in the western classical canon, and the questions that arise from that.

“There are tons of specific references in the piece: Bollywood titles, little bits of lyrics,” Dharmoo continues. ”But it’s all really, really popular and obvious if you know it. If the audience is mixed enough, it reveals how references hit home in a really comedic way or in a touching way with the people who know them: South Asians, or Bollywood fans, or whoever happens to know them. But for those who don’t, it becomes a really interesting position. Sometimes they’re more used to getting the codes of a theatre production, or the references, and there’s something exciting about being confronted with one’s own ignorance—and I mean ‘ignorance’ in a realistic-slash-positive sense. Like, we can’t know everything! That’s the truth, but I don’t think everyone is confronted with that reality equally.”

When Bijuriya made her full-length debut in Montreal earlier this year, one of her four performances had more queer South Asians in the audience than the others. “People were laughing way harder at some stuff, and singing along to things,” Dharmoo reports. But that didn’t alienate others in the crowd: instead, it proved intriguing. “There was something really cool for them about not getting it it,” he notes.

The move into drag has been some time in the making. When I interviewed Dharmoo for Toronto’s Musicworks magazine in 2016, he was just beginning to enjoy the uproarious success of Anthropologies imaginaires, an interdisciplinary solo show which he invented and performed diverse faux-ethnic musics, then hired onscreen actors to impersonate academic talking heads giving sometimes ludicrously off-base commentary. (Somehow this managed to be both hilarious and sobering, at least for those of us taxed with writing about other cultures’ music.) 

“The next work will be about brownness,” the South Asian/Trinidadian/French Canadian artist told me at the time. “It will be about mixed race, mixed identity, mixed cultural references. How I would define it now, in a kind of vague and safe way, is that I want to play with very symbolic cult songs, or cult aspects of Indian and nonresident Indian life, like in the South Asian diaspora in the U.K. or the U.S. or Canada. Old film songs that everyone in India would know and Carnatic music and people like M.I.A. or Das Racist—like, really high-art/low-art references.”

In the Montreal drag scene, he found the perfect venue to hone Bijuriya’s look, appeal, and sly social commentary. Through a series of grassroots showcases he found a new way to express a radical vision of race, gender, and what it means to be an artist—a vision that’s laid out in surprisingly succinct form in the online trailer for Bijuriya’s Queer Arts Festival show. “To shock, ignite, empower and delight,” the drag diva sings in her upbeat, anthemic theme song. “Make art, connect, engage and reflect.”

All eight items on Bijuriya’s agenda are inseparable, but of them, “delight” might be the most important. “There’s different reasons why I do drag, and one of them was the lack of delight in what I was doing before,” Dharmoo says. “Composing, as an art form, has never brought me much delight—or anyone delight. You get some sort of validation if a piece is successful, but it never really feels like delight. It’s more like passing a test…. I just felt like I needed more of that idea of sharing joy, and having joy, and having joy not just in the result but the process, also.”

This joyous generosity carries over into other aspects of Bijuriya’s mission. The act of putting a brown, queer drag artist at centre stage offers affirmation to other racialized and gender-nonconforming people, while the sheer abandon—and, at times, strangeness—of the Bijuriya persona asks other audiences to enjoy the spectacle while questioning their prejudices. 

“There’s multiple entry points,” Dharmoo confirms. “So, yeah, it’s for South Asian queers and allies, but also for anyone who’s a bit identity-confused these days—mixed-culture, first-gen or second-gen immigrants—and also for people that like art and that like music and that like to see things that aren’t conventional.”

Count us in. 

R&B vocal artists Adria Kain and Janette King sing of queer love

The musicians perform locally through a Queer Arts Festival and TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival co-presentation


Coastal Jazz and Queer Arts Festival present Adria Kain + Janette King on June 24 at 7:30 pm at Performance Works on Granville Island as part of the 2022 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

OFFERING A LUSH exploration of queer love and identity, Toronto-based R&B singer-songwriter Adria Kain and Montreal vocalist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Janette King will take to the stage in a local first: the musicians’ performance marks the first time that Queer Arts Festival has partnered with the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

Both of the artists’ most recent projects—Kain’s debut album, Where Flowers Bloom, and King’s What We Lost, a blend of alternative R&B, house, and pop—dive deep into the nuances of self-exploration, queer relationships, and how we present in the world.

While Kain’s release came out this year, the artist says that creating the work was a process that began in 2016. The pandemic helped her realize the direction the album would take.

“I went through the typical relationship stuff—learning about accountability, about who I am in a relationship, and my expectations,” Kain says in a phone interview with Stir. “During the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I allowed myself to tap into what all these things mean for me and how I want to show up moving forward.”

Where Flowers Bloom is the first time she has been open about her sexuality in her music.

“For a long time I was writing music in a less literal sense; I would never mention gender in my songs; I wanted it to be something that everyone could relate to,” Kain says. “I never really had the opportunity to say ‘This is who I am, this is me in my queerness.’ I just kind of wrote from whatever I was feeling. This album was the first time where I got into the specifics of queer experiences.”

Being open about her sexuality hasn’t come without challenges, however.

“It has been interesting being a Black queer musician in Canada, because oftentimes people don’t know how to react to me, they don’t know how to perceive what they’re seeing immediately,” Kain says. “As exciting as my music sounds to many people, they don’t know how to market me.”

Kain isn’t the kind of artist who enjoys branding herself or fitting her identity into a box. She enjoys the pureness of self-expression and is at times frustrated by the superficiality of the music industry.

“Being a musician can be exhausting for me, especially the performative aspects of it,” Kain says. “I had an epiphany recently that made me realize that music has always been something that’s embedded in me. The thing I love most about my singing voice is that it feels more like my language than my speaking voice does. The way my emotions come through in my songs when I perform live is the thing that allows others to understand who I am as a person.”

Similarly, King tries to genuinely represent herself through her music.

“My music centres around themes of self-reflection, especially in my song ‘Mirror’,” the alt-RnB artist says of a track off her 2021 album, What We Lost. “As a queer person, I’m always looking at my internal world, my internal self, because there’s always a magnifying glass on me. There’s a lot of stereotypes about queer people in the media, and I’m left to question where I fit into that. In my music, I’m always going internally, I’m always questioning if I’m portraying the person I am honestly and whether I can show up as my authentic self.”

What We Lost delves into King’s inner world and sense of identity. Consider the song “Mars”, a self-proclaimed celebration of queer Black sexuality, for instance.

“The whole album is a homage to love and the different forms of love,” says King, who started out in Vancouver. “Like how you can feel so enamoured by someone when you first meet them, how you feel when you lose somebody, how you feel in the centre of a relationship when everything feels so good, or when you start to feel someone pulling away. It’s an album exploring everything it means to be in love.”

King made her debut in 2019 with her album EP 143, which was followed by a North American tour and several performances in the UK that same year. She says that the album was well-received by the public despite the challenges the pandemic presented. This summer, she’s kicking off a nationwide tour, playing at a multitude of festivals across the country.

King’s journey as a solo artist initially made her feel vulnerable, she says, but after the release of EP 143, she was able to gain greater confidence in her artistry and sense of self.

“It’s so important to be proud of who you are,” King says. “I wish I had that advice as a younger person more. It was something I had to learn by myself over time.”

By pursuing authenticity and self-exploration through music, both Kain and King are making space for queer people to exist and thrive, both in the music industry and the world at large.

“The advice I would give to someone who looks like me is to do what you can to figure out what you want,” Kain says. “Don’t worry too much about what other people think. As long as you know who you are and how you want to be represented, then that’s the most important thing.” 

Here’s a mega list of 2SLGBTQ+ events during Pride Season in Vancouver

By Maria Diment, Vancouver is Awesome

Happy Pride Month!

Vancouver is very proud of its 2SLGBTQ+ community and the city is showing support through the big and little things (like having a 2SLGBTQ-only micro-wedding day at City Hall). 

Queer events happen around Vancouver throughout the year, but June and July are special, so we’ve put together a mega roundup of all the 2SLGBTQ+ events happening around town.

We’ll be updating this list as more events are announced, so bookmark this page and check back often.

Spin Drag

Celebrate Global Wellness Day during Pride month with an outdoor spin class. The three back to back classes have a full lineup of queer instructors, DJs, and drag performers. This event is one of the many events happening during Pride.

When: June 12 with classes at 11 a.m., 12:10 p.m., and 1:20 p.m.

Where: Milton Wong Plaza in Olympic Village

Cost: Free but registration is required

Really Gay History Tour

This walking tour celebrates the unsung heroes of Vancouver’s queer community, from drag kings to transgender crime fighters to queer church ministers.

When: Every Sunday starting June 12 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Where: Tours start outside the Robert Lee YMCA at 955 Burrard St. 

Cost: From $29

5X Pride

DJs, drag queens and a film screening, this event is a celebration and discussion for the queer community.

When: June 17 from 6 p.m. to midnight

Where: The Beaumont Studios – 316 West 5th Ave

Cost: $20

Queer Arts Festival

This year’s festival, dubbed HAUNTINGS, explores what colonial culture attempted to erase through a Queer context. The lineup includes an art party on a Chinatown rooftop, visual art exhibitions, walking tours, performances, screenings and drag.

When: June 18 through July 8 with various lineup dates

Where: various galleries and locations around Vancouver

Cost: There are both free and paid events


Festivals amplify Metro Vancouver’s arts and music scene

By Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight

We’re coming up on festival season in Vancouver, which sometimes offers a way to take in the arts at bargain prices—or even for free. In this article, we’re providing a snapshot of many of the big events. For more information, click the link, which will take you to the website or one of its social-media pages.

Bard on the Beach

(June 8 to August 24)

The lowdown: Vancouver’s popular outdoor Shakespeare festival has retained its appeal even as the Bard himself has come under more intense academic scrutiny over how he portrayed women and minorities. Part of the reason is that Bard on the Beach has been evolving with the times, even commissioning a film last year, Done/Undone, which examined these controversies in an even-handed manner. This year, the festival opens with one of the English playwright’s favourites, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Another popular play, Romeo and Juliet, comes later in the run. In a nod to the Black experience in North America, Bard on the Beach is also presenting Harlem Duet, which is Djanet Sears’s examination of a Black couple at three pivotal periods in history.

Who’s the festival for? This year, it’s not only welcoming lovers of Shakespeare but also those with a keen interest in the challenges faced by Black people.

Global Soundscapes Festival

(June 9 to 12)

The lowdown: Over four nights at the Historic Theatre at the Cultch, audiences will be treated to an impressive array of international music, including Azerbaijani tar virtuoso Ramiz Guliyev. It will be his first appearance in B.C. with the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, which will be conducted by his son, Ayyub Guliyev. Other performers include the Vancouver Erhu Quartet, which combines western strings with the erhu, which is sometimes referred to as the Chinese violin. Another group is 88 strings, incorporating plucked instruments from China, the West, and Persia. Also on the schedule is Ensemble Paramirabo from Montreal.

Who’s the festival for: Cosmopolitan music lovers eager to expand their horizons.

Talking Stick Festival

(June 12 to July 3)

The lowdown: The 21st annual Talking Stick Festival is time for National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous People’s Day (June 21). This year’s theme is “Come Together”, in which attendees go on a canoe journey exploring Indigenous culture through some very talented artists. Indigenous tattoo artists Audie Murray, Dion Kaszas, Gig–K’aajuu G’aaya, Holly Mititquq Nordlum, Nahaan, Nakkita Trimble, and Nicole Neidhard will also be featured in the Sacred Skin component. Musicians incude the sister duo of DJ KoaKeA and DJ Keilani Rose, Vancouver-based artist JB the First Lady, Handsome Tiger, and DJ Kookum. 

Who’s the festival for? Those interested in advancing reconcilation and learning more about Indigenous arts and culture.

Festival d’été francophone de Vancouver

(June 15 to 25)

The lowdown: It’s an 11-day celebration for francophiles that begins on June 15 with B.C. hip-hop artist Missy D and Quebec-based rapper FouKi. It takes palce in Studio 16 in Maison de la francophie de Vancouver (1555 West 7th Avenue). That will be the site of many other shows over the festival. And on June 18, people can gather during the day at the outdoor stage for a family-friendly celebration, capped off by evening performances by Klô Pelgag and Coeur de Pirate. On June 25, the celebration moves to the Civic Plaza outside the City of North Vancouver’s municipal hall (126 West 14th Street) for more free outdoor performances.

Who’s the festival for? Families who love practising their French in a friendly, nonjudgmental environment, as well as francophones itching for the culture that they may have left behind in other parts of Canada or around the world.

Queer Arts Festival

(June 18 to July 8)

The lowdown: This boundary-busting annual event will focus on the theme of “Hauntings” this year in a range of visual art, performance, music, and literary events. The Queer Arts Festival kicks off with an opening reception on top of its headquarters in the Sun Wah Centre in Chinatown. That’s where a free visual arts show, curated by Adwait Singh and directed by S D Holman, will showcase queer artistic practices from South Asia throughout the festival. There’s another free art exhibition in partnership with James Black Gallery, entitled Pride in Art Community Show. In addition, the QAF is partnering with the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival for the first time in presenting Adria Kain and Janette King at Performance Works on June 24.

Who’s the festival for? Music and art lovers who hope to discover what’s on the cutting edge of queer expression.

TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

(June 24 to July 3)

The lowdown: The Coastal Jazz and Blues Society always puts on a world-class event at multiple venues. This year’s highlights include American blues-guitar legend Buddy Guy at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (June 24) and three-time Grammy winner Lucinda Williams at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (July 2). Another Grammy winner, Cécile McLorin Salvant, will be at the Vancouver Playhouse (June 27). At the same venue on the following evening, it’s the Manchester-based Gogo Penguin (June 28). In addition, there are more than 60 free concerts, including the Josh Zubot Quartet and Darius Jones at Performance Works (June 24), Terminal Station at Ocean Art Works (June 24), DJ Koakea and DJ Keilani Rose at Ocean Art Works (June 24), the Sister Jazz Orchestra at the Georgia Street Stage (June 25), and Joyce N’Sana at North Vancouver’s Civic Plaza (June 25).

Who’s the festival for? This is not your grandparents’ jazz festival—music runs the gamut from straight-ahead jazz to more experimental forms of music.

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Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival announces QAF 2022 lineup


The fest celebrates its 15th anniversary of summer-arts programming with the theme of Hauntings

QUEER ARTS FESTIVAL (QAF) celebrates 15 years of summer-arts programming with QAF 2022: Hauntings, a “playful and profound exploration of Queer existence throughout time and place”.

The fest takes place from June 18 to July 8, kicking off at Chinatown’s Sun Wah Centre with the event’s signature visual art exhibition.

Vanishing Act, curated by New Delhi-based Adwait Singh and directed by SD Holman, will be unveiled At the opening ArtParty!. Presented in partnership with Centre A, On Main Gallery, and Griffin Art Projects, the exhibition represents a survey of queer artistic practices from South Asian, African, and Middle Eastern artists, and more. 

Throughout the fest, QAF’s visual art, performance, music, and literary events will explore the theme of hauntings, asking audiences: “What haunts you?”

“For Queer communities, fear, insecurity and longing have punctuated collective existence for decades,” a release states. “Queers everywhere exist with the haunting reminder of what colonial culture attempted to erase and an ephemeral suggestion of what future lays in wait. As with the generations that came before, this foreboding only places emphasis on the need for more celebrations, more art, and more community — this year, QAF doubles down on all three.”

QAF 2022 is hosting visiting artists for the first time since 2019, re-establishing its relationship with Roundhouse Community Centre for performances such as Bijuriya, the experimental drag persona of Montreal’s Gabriel Dharmoo; and Catalina La O Presenta: Now With Me, a one-woman show created by performance duo jk jk and winner of the 2020 Vancouver Fringe New Play Prize in its live theatre debut.

Among the other highlights is Pride in Art Community Show (June 20 to July 8), which this year marks QAF’s first partnership with James Black Gallery. The show honours the legacy of fest founder, activist, and Two-Spirit artist Robbie Hong.

QAF partners with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival for the first time to present Toronto-based R&B singer-songwriter Adria Kain and Montreal’s Janette King (June 24).

Reel Eerie on June 26 is a media-art screening of queer horror shorts, curated by CS Fergusson-Vaux and Ben Siegl. 

On July 6, Vancouver/Edmonton writer and activist Berend McKenzie curates Queerotica, an evening of queer writers exploring theme of The Masc & Femme We Wear.

Glitter is Forever on July 8 is the Closing Party, with special-guest DJs, bubbles, and views from the rooftop of the Sun Wah Centre. 

Festival passes are available for $69 until May 24. Single day event tickets will launch thereafter. Full details are at

Save the date: 15th Vancouver Queer Arts Festival lineup announced

Stuart Derdeyn, The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Queer Arts Festival

When: June 18 — July 8, various times
Where: Various spaces

The 15th annual instalment of this artist-run, transdisciplinary arts festival is back for another round of exciting, boundary-expanding artistic expression. Kicking off with the Art Party! on top of the Sun Wah Centre Rootop (June 18, 7 p.m.), this year’s event examines the theme of hauntings.

What haunts you?

This topic will be explored in different ways by participating artists such as Bijuriya: Gabriel Dharmoo. In his June 28 Roundhouse Community Centre show, the artist will present her examination of Desi heritage and larger issues of inclusion and Queer intersectionality in an experimental drag show.

Also featured is Catalina La O Presenta: Now With Me, the winner of the 2020 Fringe New Play Prize, which blends clowning, body politics and Puerto Rico (June 23, 25, Roundhouse) and the first pairing of the QAF with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival presenting musicians Adria Kain + Janette King (June 24, 7:30 p.m.).

Full festival schedule is available at the website and a limited number of $69 passes are available until May 24.

Let us love: The ‘Sun Comes Out’ at Portland Opera

Queer-themed Canadian opera makes U.S. premiere at Hampton Opera Center

FEBRUARY 2, 2022


When the Sun Comes Out opened in 2013 in Canada, commissioned by the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival.

Now, a long eight years later, the new-music opera by Japanese-Canadian Leslie Uyeda with a gorgeous libretto by Canadian poet Rachel Rose, finally premieres in the United States. It opened Jan. 28 at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center for six performances through Feb. 12. Five have sold out, though the day I went, the 154-seat space was at least a third empty. Many opera-goers may have decided to watch from home when the opera is available digitally on Portland Opera Onscreen for a limited time starting Feb. 25.

But the big question: Why do these eye-opening pieces take so long to reach us? In 2015, gay marriage was legalized in the United States. It was 2005 in Canada, and in 2002, the Netherlands pioneered it. Gay marriage is old news in the Western world, from a political standpoint, though the opera was written and sung in English. Of course there are more complex ramifications to gay marriage than legalization.

And in at least 65 other countries same-sex marriage remains a crime, many times a death sentence. And that’s what this opera is all about — and it’s about love being blind to politics: love is love, even more if you have to fight for it.

The Hampton’s intimate Hinckley Studio Theatre can be reconfigured for different shows, and this one, with the audience on three sides, left the stage to the performers. Only a pile of pale furniture morphed into a table here, a bed there. The five musicians and conductor were tucked away in a corner.

Christine A. Richardson’s simple white and beige costumes (other than the rugged mannish one worn by the intense, plucky Solana performed by soprano Cree Carrico) and Cynthia Felice’s set were neutral, indicating a lack of place other than the inside of a home, perhaps a reference to Covid’s claustrophobia. Still, there was a shawl that turned into a head scarf for Lilah (mezzo Sandra Piques Eddy), the woman who now has a child and is desperately sought out again by Solana after an affair three years earlier.

So perhaps that head scarf and mention of lemon trees in Lilah’s courtyard were clues to the setting, though the symbolism did not hit you over the head. In contrast, Solana was dressed like a Canadian explorer — hat, staff and shoulder bag. The suspenders on the two men’s costumes were a nice touch. The detail gave off a pioneer vibe, and in this opera, there are pioneers. This is a country-less, timeless piece.

As much as I adored the poetic libretto loaded with images and metaphor about two very different women— Solana comes off as daring, dangerous, brave and fickle; Lilah is a wealthy (her emerald jewels are mentioned), obedient wife and mother— who fall for each other in an unknown country where gay sex is criminalized, I was not overwhelmed by the opera. 

The music falls into the category of new music, with distinctively Asian touches, and tempos were notably uneven and melody uncommon. Many listeners’ ears are not tuned to those musical values, though others of us crave and embrace brave new operas. The five Portland Opera Orchestra principals who played (cellist Dylan Rieck, flutist GeorgeAnne Rieg, clarinetist Louis DeMartino, violinist Margaret Bichteler and pianist Sequoia) conducted by Maria Sensi Sellner were excellent despite the difficult score, and never overwhelmed the singers. At times, the subtle music vanished into a backdrop, and I wish I could recall more of it.

Two dancers–Sophie Beadie and Aaron Petite of Portland’s Shaun Keylock Company–reflected complex emotions, mostly comforting with their movements the performers’ angst, but sometimes enhancing their fury. Graceful and almost soundless, they were a welcome addition to the production, and very much a part of the show’s fabric, somehow sorting out searingly difficult feelings and memories.

Then about 50 minutes into the 80-minute opera, guess who appears? A man. This is no longer a lesbian opera if that’s what you were banking on.The story gets more interesting and the stakes go higher.

Baritone Michael Parham, plays the part of Lilah’s husband, Javan. And guess what? He has a vey big secret: He’s gay, too, and has named their beloved daughter after a favorite lover, Azhar, who was killed for homosexual behavior. (Javan has intense survivor’s guilt.)

Everyone is suddenly in the same boat, despite the jealousy and secrets, and they can kill each other off before the state does, or they can help one another to forge a new future. They choose the latter after much saber-rattling and knife-drawing, and an overwhelming reason is the child — the future, a factor that the stubborn Solana must accept. Lilah and Javan must accept a new family configuration with Solana. After all, the opera is called When the Sun Comes Out; its message is ultimately hopeful.

The opera picked up with the entrance of Parham, a former PO resident artist, who has a strong voice and weighty stage presence. He added his baritone to Carrico’s soprano and to Eddy’s lovely warm mezzo (she sings often at the Met and was praised profusely for her 2015 PO Carmen performance and for the Carmen she sang twice on tour with Seiji Ozawa).

Carrico’s voice calmed down as the performance lengthened. She is a coloratura soprano and has quite a bit of ping and ring to her voice. Some call it squillo, which according to my online source is:

the resonant, trumpet-like sound in the voices of opera singers. It is also commonly called ring, ping, core and other terms. Squillo enables an essentially lyric tone to be heard over thick orchestrations, e.g., in late Verdi, Puccini and Strauss operas.

Too much and the voice sounds shrill.

And there was no thick orchestration to be heard over. Perhaps Carrico was directed to sing more stridently in the first part of the opera to show off her bravado. “I will never be a wife or a bride in dazzling white,” she sings early on. The opera space is small and the audience is on top of the singers, so the pinging and ringing were especially apparent. Eventually–most notably with Parham’s entrance–the singers harmonized in duets and trios, and there was nothing more beautifully rendered and orchestrated in the opera, without the least bit of sentimentality, than the last line: “Let us love.”

Vancouver composer Leslie Uyeda’s When The Sun Comes Out sees its U.S. premiere at Portland Opera, January 28

Originally commissioned and produced by the Queer Arts Festival, opera explores forbidden love in a nation where homosexuality is banned.


A PIONEERING OPERA about oppression and the LGBTQSIA+ community is set to see its American premiere.

Vancouver composer, pianist, and conductor Leslie Uyeda’s groundbreaking When the Sun Comes Out, with a libretto by Vancouver poet Rachel Rose, opens at the Portland Opera on January 28.

When The Sun Comes Out was composed between 2011 and 2012 as a commission for the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival, where it premiered in 2013, followed by performances in Toronto in 2014. It was billed at the time as “Canada’s first lesbian opera”.

The opera is a poetic love story following resistance against a fictional state that oppresses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. It centres on the rebellious Solana and her beloved Lilah, who is now a wife and mother; together, they fight for a new future, even as their secret romance is threatened by Lilah’s unpredictable husband, Javan.

The live Portland production, staged at the Hampton Opera Center, features a cast that includes Sandra Piques Eddy, Cree Carrico, and Michael Parham, under conductor Maria Sensi Sellner and director Alison Moritz. The music comes courtesy of a quintet of Portland Opera Orchestra musicians, featuring violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and piano. The piece also integrates original dance by Portland’s Shaun Keylock Company.

At the time of the premiere here, Uyeda, a onetime chorus director for Vancouver Opera, revealed she had long dreamed of writing a lesbian opera in a genre that often centres on heterosexual love stories. Both she and the poet she found to create the libretto are queer artists. (Rose was Vancouver’s Poet Laureate from 2014 to 2017.)

Reflecting on the ongoing relevance of the piece in the American-premiere announcement yesterday, Lesie Uyeda said, “Written before social movements that began in the United States such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, and before the tragedy in Orlando, I’ve asked myself how different the opera might be if it had been written within the last two or three years.

“What is the difference between what I wanted to say then and what I would say now? Sadly, I think that the issues the opera was talking about ten years ago are more than relevant today. For this reason, I am so grateful to Portland Opera for including When The Sun Comes Out in their 2021-2022 season.”

Here’s why a piano was lit on fire in Mountain View Cemetery this weekend

By: Brendan Kergin, Vancouver is Awesome

An unusual sight lit the city’s only cemetery this past weekend.

On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 24, a piano was set on fire as a woman in a red (fire-proof) gown played two new songs.

This was a piece of transdisciplinary art, though a piece with plenty of ceremonial aspects, involving sound and visual pieces.

Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, the pianist, was performing a local version of Piano Burning put on by the Queer Arts Festival (QAF) and Full Circle: First Nations Performance. Originally conceived of in 1968 by avant-garde composer Annea Lockwood, the local version carried extra meaning given the current state of the world, location, and participants, says SD Holman, the founding artistic director emeritus at the QAF.

A central theme has to do with the involvement of Indigenous peoples in the performance. Among other parts, there was a four directions dance preceding the piano performance, and the original songs played as the piano was lit on fire were created by local composer and member of the Lil’wat Nation Russell Wallace.

Piano Burning, in this context, resembled a fire ceremony. Fire ceremonies were a part of Coast Salish culture banned by the federal government along with potlatches.

“The music, the dance and all the ritualistic aspects of things were basically performed not openly in the community,” Wallace says. “Back in the 40s when the songs were coming back out, my mom was part of that movement of bringing the music back to the community.”

Through the flames items are sent to ancestors and those who’ve passed. For Holman it was a way to send music to their wife. For Wallace the ceremonial impact of his work didn’t hit until the piano his songs were being played and the piano was burning.

“I wrote it with the intention of sending music up to my parents who were both very supportive of me being involved in music,” he tells Vancouver is Awesome. “I had a moment there I was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of heavy with meaning.'”

Part of that weighty moment comes from the fact it was held in a cemetery. Holman notes another layer of the piece has to do with the fact a piano is an item from European and colonial cultures, while it was burned in a fire ceremony with many Indigenous aspects involved.

“Europeans burn things in effigy, it’s a violent concept,” she notes. “Indigenous people burn not what’s despised, but what’s cherished.”

Another aspect is an environmental statement, since the wooden object burns; the fact the performance had to be delayed due to the fire ban over the summer only adds to that. Additionally, there are the recent headlines about residential schools in Canada, a part of history that’s only recently been seeing more light.

“We have to learn to reconcile the difference between what we’re taught and the history we can no longer deny with all the residential schools,” Holman says.

Central to all the layers is the transformative nature of fire.

“It’s this beautiful thing; how we’re directly witnessing matter change to energy, just as we transform from matter to energy when we die,” says Holman.

Wallace wrote two pieces of music just to be played as the piano was destroyed. In both cases he leaned on Coast Salish styles to inform the songs.

“Being a knitter, I’ve knitted before, and patterns, repeating patterns, slightly altering them to create designs are important,” he says. “That was the idea of the compositions. Repetition with slight changes to create a design.”

Since he’d never written for piano before Iwaasa, the pianist in the flame retardant gown (and co-founder of QAF), helped. She had actually approached Wallace in the first place about creating the music.

While the music was central to the performance, Wallace notes the visual of the piano was interesting.

“Once it got darker and the piano was ablaze it was really visually striking and kind of felt like a big bon fire,” he says.

For those upset at the idea of a piano being destroyed, Holman notes it was donated after a long life of being used and recycled throughout the community. She also notes it was “not really a viable piano” anymore. Wallace says that the first thing to go on it, after it was set alight was the tuning (it was a cool day and fire is hot).

Postponed Piano Burning finally ignites on October 24 at Mountain View Cemetery


The Queer Arts Festival and the Talking Stick Festival present Piano Burning on October 24 at 5 pm at Mountain View Cemetery

IT’S A PERFORMANCE that refuses to be extinguished.

After seeing postponement due to fire bans on August 8 during the Queer Arts Festival, Piano Burning is now ready to ignite again. As we reported then, the outdoor performance at Mountain View Cemetery will feature Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa sporting a (fireproof) gown designed by Evan Ducharme and literally lighting her piano on fire. The highly symbolic performance will debut a new piece by composer Russell Wallace.

SD Holman and Margo Kane, artistic director of Full Circle: First Nations Performance, have put a new twist on Annea Lockwood’s notorious work, written in 1968 and directing the performer to soak paper in lighter fluid, set it alight, and drop it into a piano that is beyond repair. The Vancouver duo has re-envisioned the entire act through the lens of historically banned First Nations fire ceremonies and the global warming crisis.

They’ve grounded this event in cultural knowledge and a focus on Two-Spirit artists, including Sempúlyan, who will speak about the spiritual role of fire to communicate with ancestors, and Squamish Nation councillor Orene Askew (better known as DJ O Show), who will set the piano alight.

In August, Holman wrote a letter explaining the reasons for the postponement and for the provocative transdisciplinary performance itself; you can read it here. And brush up on much more background on Piano Burning itself, with info here from when Stir previewed it in August.