Vermont Womenpreneurs Summit - for carousel

July 06, 2022

Video Transcript

Thank you so much for having me. My name is Katherine Leung. I'm the curator and editor of Canto Cutie magazine. Canto Cutie is an art and literature magazine about the Cantonese diaspora. Behind me, you'll see artwork from some of the artists from our four volumes, soon to publish a 5th volume. The Cantonese diasporas has origins in Hong Kong, Southern China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia. In case this is the first time you have ever heard of this, it's a language with 80 million speakers and considered a dialect of Chinese but with a very different grammatical and vocabulary structure from Mandarin. In culture, it's most commonly associated with Hong Kong. You can find the Cantonese diaspora all over the world and large populations in every English-speaking country. In fact, New York City and San Francisco Chinatowns were founded by Cantonese speaking immigrants. Canto Cutie has published the work of over 100 artists and writers from the US, UK, Ireland, Canada Australia, Portugal, Netherlands and beyond. I started Canto Cutie three years ago following some of my own experiences as an artist and writer. I was trying to market myself, take part in the right group shows, get my work published in the right publications but I kept running into some of the same issues and no doubt some of these issues are other issues that writers and artists everywhere face. So I'm sure some people can relate. One issue is submission fees. With a lot of publications, you have to pay upwards of $200 just to be accepted, just to be considered. Another issue is hanging fees. Once you're accepted into the art show you have to actually pay to be in it. Another setback was my lack of social capital. I didn't attend art school or study writing. I didn't know how to write an artist statement. I had never met even any professional artist in my life. Another issue was lack of representation. As an Asian American, I didn't just want to write about the trials and tribulations of being the child of immigrants. What if I didn't want to make art about cliches? What if I identified more with the international diaspora than just being American? What have I found affinity with people who spoke this language rather than any geopolitical boundaries or generational markers? And finally, after once my art was accepted or published somewhere, I found myself disappointed with the follow through. I often found my name misspelled. I found my work published or printed in low resolution. I found publications weren't doing anything to celebrate the work within the pages. There wasn't any promotion and this led me to start Canto Cutie with a little bit of design skill, experience running a staff, and a huge desire to get into into into independent publishing, I started my own zine. Canto Cutie is not like other zines which are typically handwritten or photocopied. It's designed thoughtfully with a team of editors. It features Chinese translations for all the interviews. We choose artists that have fallen under the radar to spotlight, interview, give them their own platform. We do our best given the international audience to have launch parties and I worked tirelessly to promote the artists on social media. Whenever possible, I read the work aloud in international venues. I read the poetry of international artists in American venues to raise awareness for their work and send people their way. We work with stockists and form wholesale relationships with bookshops and small independent shops that support our cause. As one person with a small team, we try to never let the celebration stop and with every issue and more recognition, we're trying to move closer and closer to a model where we can one day financially support the artists and writers, we publish. But there's another reason Canto Cutie is professionally bound and published and looks the way it does. This magazine has become the public face of an ideology. In the face of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, a struggle for more transparent elections, and the passage of the Sedition Act and National Security Laws of 2020 claiming to be Cantonese became synonymous with a crime. Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997 and like Taiwan has a really contentious political status as a region of China. Like my family members in Taiwan, it's confusing because there's division within the diaspora about how we talk about our own countries, how we talk about our identities, who are we. Hinting that Cantonese language and history is somehow separate or that our history is a little bit different than China, or implying that China is not a monolith - that gets messy with international law. So yes, I'm afforded the privilege of being an American. But many people publish their work in Canto Cutie anonymously, under pseudonyms to protect their identity. Writing a poem exploring your Chinese-ness or your Cantonese-ness is not safe. Sharing protest information or even photos is a crime and as mentioned before,

even different generations within the diaspora qualify who is allowed to talk about this or who gets to talk about this. So while you as an American listener might think you need to take up arms to support Hong Kong and other Cantonese language causes, You also need to consider the nuances and infighting within the community as well. Not every Cantonese person you meet will agree with the material in Canto Cutie and not every Chinese person has a similar view. I guess I just want you to imagine for a minute running a magazine and being told by people within the diaspora that these ideas aren't valid, that a majority of these artists and writers don't even live in Hong Kong so how dare they even have an opinion about what's going on. My intersectional identity brings disadvantages but also brings me so much joy and community. I guess I want to end my story with thanking you for your time. Thank you for learning and taking the time to learn more about the Cantonese diaspora, the only identity that I know. I hope you don't walk away from this telling people "Cantonese people think that" or "BIPOC in Vermont, they want this" but really begin to understand the nuance in our experiences and continue listening to voices that are not like your own wherever that is. Listen to people who don't look like you, who don't act like you, who don't think like you and I hope you can support artists and writers around you, whether financially or with the power and privilege you are afforded. Thanks.

Produced with Vocal Video