A new 150-foot mural located in Boston’s Chinatown honors a popular noodle shop and celebrates the neighborhood’s identity.
The painting, titled Where We Belong, depicts numerous noodle dishes intertwining to eventually form a dragon. The brightly colored art is accompanied by text displaying noodle-related stories from community members.
Thai artist Ponnapa Prakkamakul, who created the work, told Boston.com that she wanted to celebrate the Ho Toy Noodle Company, a noodle factory that is well-known across the neighborhood, and its owner Jeff Wong. The shop once occupied the vacant building that hosts the mural, though it has since relocated.
In preparation for creating the mural, Prakkamakul spoke to community members about Wong, who is represented in the mural as the dragon. She also co-hosted a storytelling workshop for youth in order to learn more about the factory’s influence on Chinatown.
“I wanted to know how noodles are shaping culture domestically right now,” Prakkamakul said. “I selected some of the quotes from the workshop and these are written on the wall, so hopefully people who read these will feel connected to their own memory of noodles.”
According to WCVB, the mural was commissioned by building owner Oxford Properties Group and the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) in order to brighten the area. Angie Liou, executive director of ACDC, said the mural was also an effective way for Chinatown residents to reclaim the neighborhood.
That sense of belonging, which is referenced in the mural’s title, strikes at the heart of the issues that many Chinatown residents face today. Rising rents and anti-Asian violence remain pressing issues for them.
“If we can no longer afford to live here, where do we belong?” Liou told WCVB. “Where do Chinese Americans and Asian Americans belong in the city of Boston? It’s the year 2021, and many of us still feel invisible and not quite like full Americans.”
The mural is specifically intended to counter the gentrification and development that are encroaching upon Chinatown, ACDC Director of Community Programs & Design Jeena Hah told Boston Business Journal. Neighborhood residents are worried about the downtown and luxury businesses that are displacing traditional shops in the area.
But with the mural, Hah said, community members are voicing their concerns in a joyful way.
“What we’re communicating through this mural is that volunteers, tourists, residents, we all care about the health and well-being of Chinatown,” Hah said.
Prakkamakul told Patch she was grateful that the community is embracing the mural. The youth’s voices especially, she said, meant a lot to her because they will influence Chinatown’s future.
She added that her mural serves as a welcoming symbol to people of all nationalities who want to connect more with their neighborhoods.
“I hope this mural creates a sense of place for local residents and inspires passerby to feel that they can help contribute to the community where they belong,” Prakkamakul said.
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