Laiwan is a visual artist, writer, activist, thinker, speaker, and educator in Vancouver, British Columbia. It has been said that she is reticent and modest, shying away from the spectacular, and these traits may belie the cosmopolitan and eclectic sources of her thought, as what she produces is so often surprising, even in its exploration of the ephemeral.
Her biography usually mentions a background of displacement; yet Laiwan has chosen to be based in Vancouver for decades, focusing on the local, where she is well known as an artist and as founder of the OR Gallery.
Of Chinese ancestry, she grew up first in apartheid Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), with early schooling by German nuns; then, when her family relocated to Canada, she had the life of a teenager in East Vancouver, attending Britannia Secondary School where she learned to work the printing press. To make sense of things, she stumbled into poetry.
Educated at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, encountering the punk and art-folk-rock music scenes, she later gained an MFA from Simon Fraser University. She teaches in the United States.
Talonbooks published Tender in 2020.
Biographical note composed by Steve Bridger.
Photo: Circa 1968, Rezende Street (Harare, Zimbabwe). Photographer unknown.