Vancouver 1855 - 1955
The mural at 350 Carrall is meant to symbolize the history of Vancouver, concentrating primarily on its surroundings between 1855-1955. It is impossible to include every significant event over a century on one wall, so rather we aimed to represent various significant processes to reveal how Vancouver’s current model of tolerance and multiculturalism was forged through histories of violence, racism and inequality.
The piece starts pre-colonialism on the left of the mural. It depicts the lush green areas of Luck-Lucky, now ‘Gastown’, and references the Musqueam canoe portage route between Burrard Inlet and False Creek, as well as some traditional long houses. Moving right, the significance of the early forestry industry is expressed through the transition from dense trees to stumps.
Next we pay homage to what initially drove a great deal of settlement and the expansion of Vancouver, the Gold Rush in the interior of B.C and the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The gold rush is represented by a pair of hands gold panning. It was this process that brought the first Chinese settlers to the area, initially from San Francisco in 1858 and then directly from China in 1860. The construction of the CPR greatly expanded these numbers, as an estimated 17,000 workers were brought across the Pacific from the Guangdong province of China. We have purposely placed a Chinese worker in the foreground while the stumps transform into politicians and Captains of Industry driving-in the Golden Spike in the back.
Next we have a tribute to Maple Tree Square and the role that alcohol and vice played in the development of Gastown. The tree transitions to a fire representing the great fire of 1886, where the city was destroyed just weeks after it was officially incorporated as ‘The City of Vancouver’. Next we have the 1907 Chinatown / Nihon Bachi (Japan District) riot, shown with an angry white mob attacking a storefront in Chinatown. There is reference to Wing Sang building, the oldest building still standing Chinatown, built by the influential Yip Sang in 1889.
We then fast forward to the depression where the rioters transition to a bread line and a despondent man is slumped over in the foreground. The background shows the confiscated fishing boats of Japanese-Canadian fisherman, which were taken during WWII when Japanese-Canadians were moved to internment camps in the interior. During the war Vancouver was one of the most productive ship building ports in North America, we symbolize with a large ship.
Throughout the piece, you see a train that starts at the golden spike and finishes near the end of the mural, this train represents the inter urban which used to bring passengers from all over the lower mainland to Hastings and Carrall, making this termination the centre of the city. In 1955 it was relocated from this spot and relocated to Granville Street, taking with it thousands of daily commuters and visitors and re-orientating the ‘centre’ of the city further west.
The last piece is a representation of a Musqueam woman symbolically tearing up the Indian Act in 1951. The reforms allowed the indigenous people of Canada to once again perform cultural practises such as the Potlatch, bring land claims to the government, and for women to vote in band council elections.