Since the start of the year the world has witnessed the spread of Covid-19 and, as a result, the spread of racism connected to the outbreak. Statistics show that during the first three months of 2020, the number of reported hate crimes against East Asian and South East Asian people have tripled compared to 2018 and 2019. In response to this surge in hate crime during the Covid-19 crisis, a group of writers, directors, creators and actors have joined together to present WeRNotVirus, a new free digital arts event from Moongate Productions and Omnibus Theatre, with proceeds going to Black Lives Matter.
Ten powerful short stories played out over the course of two hour-long episodes spread over two days on Zoom, and featured song, dance, poetry and animation. With direction from Jennifer Lang and Anthony Lau, WeRNotVirus featured stories focusing on race, identity and the attitudes East Asian and South East Asians have faced since the outbreak. The pieces included Cosplay, written by ENXI, which featured a frank conversation between a brother and sister (performed by Leo Wan, Jennifer Lim); Will Harris’s Family Scenario, an enchanting animation (courtesy of NoMattsland) about a man looking for his half-sister; and Shame, written by Jimin Suh, a story of a young man (Michael Phong Le) with a broken toilet seat, who’s scared to leave the house for fear of being abused.
The stories were well distributed over the two days, and after a somewhat slow start the show soon found its feet. WeRNotVirus certainly gave the audience a lot to think about, particularly with the likes of Do My Eyes Look Small In This, written by JM Arrow, which showed a young woman lesbian Muslim woman (Peyvand Sadeghian) putting on her makeup and niqab while discussing the hateful comments she’s received.
The standout pieces however, came at the end of each session and left a lasting impact on viewers. I Am Not A Virus, a pre-recorded video written by Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen, featured 100 East Asian women reading out statements in response to some of the abuse East Asian and South East Asian people have received since the outbreak, including ‘I do not eat raw bat’ and more poignantly, ‘I am human’, each statement a devastating blow. Daniel York-Loh’s No Time For Tears was equally rousing, a poetic and impassioned piece with slick performances from Ghost & John.
While some stories didn’t quite have the impact of others, on the whole WeRNotVirus was a hard-hitting and thought-provoking event which both demonstrated the effect abuse can have on people and reinforced the fact we are all human. An inspiring and powerful event, this is certainly deserved of a wider audience.
WeRNotVirus is available on YouTube from 17 June.