Salam // Wai: Resistance Beyond Borders (the exhibition)

By Jason Li

2019 September 17

The outside gate of Tea Base, repurposed with the two social media profile pictures that were popular in Hong Kong and Sudan (the blackened and wilted bauhinia flag and the #BlueForSudan color) and satirical public information signs from Hong Kong. Photo by Jason Li.

August 24 – 31, 2019
Tea Base
222 Spadina Ave, Chinatown Centre, Toronto

September 5 – October 7, 2019
OCAD Zine Library
122 St. Patrick St., Level 1, Toronto

Exhibition statement

In times of dissent, we turn to art to call out, to connect and to celebrate. Where there’s resistance, there’s art. This has borne true this summer, as brutal events shook society from the banks of the Nile in Sudan to the distant shores of Hong Kong, as we pushed back against the tides of power.

In this age of social media, our struggles are juxtaposed – our screens flicker blue and yellow, as we hop between Sudan and Hong Kong, with the tap of a finger. For those of us caught on either side, how can we hold space for each other, when our own homes are under attack? Yet together we must stand in this global fight for liberation.

Curated by Diaspora Express and Hong Kong Gong, “Salam // Wai: Resistance Beyond Borders” brings together visual art from both Hong Kong, Sudan, and their respective diasporas at Tea Base. Our collection includes mosaics from the Khartoum sit-in that overthrew two dictators, posters from the two million person march on Hong Kong Island, as well as prints and photographs from solidarity rallies in Canada. During these times of political instability, art has played a crucial role in both movements. The latest wave of protests in Sudan paved the way for a cultural renaissance from local youth and the Sudanese diaspora, and in Hong Kong, they have played a critical role in galvanizing the general public into action.

Our opening reception will be hosted at Tea Base (222 Spadina Ave, in the basement, under a sign that says “Xuân Hu’o’ng”), a cozy DIY art space tucked away in the heart of Chinatown. There will be tea, snacks, art and games – stay tuned!

Scenes from our opening

A group of people congregate near the entrance to DIY arts space Tea Base, reading zines and chatting with one another. 📸: Iman Abbaro

The yellow umbrella draped with a Sudanese flag that hangs over the entryway into Tea Base. Also visible: a table of family-photo art by Azza Abarro and Jason Li, a wall of art by Haneen Sidahmed, and hanging prints by Enas Satir. 📸: Christine Wu

A corner couch area adorned with Merg Salih’s wall-sized banner (that first appeared at the Khartoum sit-ins), posters from the Hong Kong protest (including one that says “students are not rioters”), and various illustrations and prints. 📸: Jason Li

Diaspora Express co-founder Iman Abbaro serving Sudanese milk tea amidst a table full of egg rolls. 📸: Jason Li

A kid-sized traffic cone adorned with a print of an Onion Peterman illustration, in front of “Chinatown Is Not For Sale” cardboard sign. 📸: Jason Li


Our exhibition revolves around a central question: how can we hold space for one another, when our own homes are under attack? This predicament haunted those of us with ties to Sudan and Hong Kong early this summer, as our social media feeds overflowed with news of violence and resistance. Curating and facilitating “Salam // Wai: Resistance Beyond Borders” is our attempt at answering this question.

We hope to bring our two communities together with our collection of visual art and zines from Hong Kong, Sudan and their respective diasporas. Our show includes carefully curated displays of blended Sudan-Hong Kong family photo artworks, explanatory zines and protest banners, situated within a comfortable, living room setting that encourages visitors to look, linger and mingle. For our opening, we hosted a family-style tea party serving tea and snacks, where almost a hundred people came out to support one cause and learn about the other.

One of our favorite pieces was also one of the simplest: an album filled with photos of solidarity rallies here in Toronto. Within the album, one pair of photos stands out in particular: Two images shot in front of the Old City Hall, from almost the same angle, on a bright and sunny day, with protesters waving flags, holding signs and tapping phones. Only upon closer inspection is it clear that the images are of different rallies for Sudan and Hong Kong. At first glance though, they look and feel the same – a visual reminder that our respective fights for liberation may not be so different after all.

By Jason Li.

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