Celebrating Burnaby’s cultures with public art

New mural represents the fusion of traditional Japanese culture with Burnaby’s diverse urban culture

Few people ever hear that their work has shone a light in the darkness, bringing life to a space. But that is exactly what passersby told artist Taka Sudo when he was creating his large mural on the side wall of Nikkei Place, the Japanese cultural centre and museum located in Burnaby at 6688 Southoaks Cres. On Dec. 4, Burnaby City Council voted to grant $7,000 in funding for the mural, completed in September 2023 in time for the Nikkei Matsuri festival that takes place every year to celebrate Japanese-Canadian culture. 

The Beacon spoke with the artist to learn more about the mural and its significance. Sudo has been an artist for 20 years. His work has been displayed all over the Metro Vancouver area and in Japan, where his work is currently exhibited at a ski resort. Born and raised in Tokyo, Sudo has lived and worked in Metro Vancouver since 2007. 

However, art was not always his profession. “I studied law in university,” Sudo said. He was not passionate about studying law, so he tried to shift gears and study filmmaking. This new field sparked his artistic curiosity and started him on a whole new path. Sudo did not go to art school and is a self-taught artist. 

Artist Taka Sudo painting a mural. Photo: Taka Sudo

“In studying filmmaking, it’s very similar to making art. Making films costs so much money, and we need so many people because we have to work as a team, but I thought I might make something like the same concept or theme but on canvas. Maybe I can make the story of the film onto the canvas,” Sudo said. 

Even though it took Sudo a month to execute the mural at Nikkei Place, the project was a year in the making. It all started when an art director at Nikkei Place contacted him in December 2022 and asked if he was interested in creating a mural for Nikkei Matsuri. “I was super excited to do the project,” he said. 

For the following eight months, he collaborated with Nikkei Place staff to create the mural concept. In making the mural, he was influenced by traditional Japanese art and culture and Burnaby’s contemporary urban culture. As a competitive freestyle skier, Sudo also combines elements of extreme sports culture in his work. The first step in designing the mural involved creating a concept sketch. He then revised the sketch and finalized the design before moving on to painting it. 

“The concept is about traditional Japanese culture and the culture in BC and in Burnaby. I made a Japanese crane called the tsuru bird,” Sudo said. 

Taka Sudo’s mural at Nikkei Place. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

The two birds in the mural are iconic in traditional Japanese art. Neon-colored, urban elements build the organic shapes of the bird. “It’s kind of like a mix of the urban and organic.” In nature the cranes are primarily white in colour, but Sudo chose to use a broad palette of different hues in spray paint and outdoor latex paints. “That’s a representation of multicultural diversity because we have lots of different colours and lots of different cultural backgrounds,” he said. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of creating the artwork was the reaction Sudo received from people visiting Nikkei Place and neighbours living nearby. 

“When I was creating the mural, so many people visiting the Nikkei Matsuri festival were super stoked and excited. The mural’s location is in a back alley kind of space. It was a bit of a shady, dark spot. So, the people said they enjoy the wall and the artwork, but also they’re very happy because that space is getting brighter and safer by having the mural there.” 

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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