A film presented by Contemporary Asian Theatre Scene (CATS)

Drawn From Life: The Creative Legacy of FLO OY WONG

PLEASE SAVE THE DATE for a special 2023 Silicon Valley Asian American FilmFest premiere screening in celebration of Flo’s 85th Birthday on Sunday, October 22, 2023, 1:30pm, at the AMC Dine-In Theatre, 150 E McKinley Ave, Sunnyvale, California.


As the sixth daughter of Chinese immigrants living in Oakland’s Chinatown in the 1940s-1960s, FLO OY WONG was determined to break free of a life of pre-destined invisibility. She began her art career at the age of forty. Her poetry career started at seventy-five.

Flo makes art and writes poetry to tell stories about her immigrant family and other Asian communities. Growing up in Oakland Chinatown, she spoke her family’s ancestral dialect, Hoisan-wa. Flo is a recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts awards, and co-founder of the San Francisco-based Asian American Women Artists Association. In the year 2000, Kearny Street Workshop presented Flo Oy Wong’s “made in usa: Angel Island Shhh” exhibit, which explored the identity secrets of Chinese immigrants detained and interrogated in the United States. In 2018, Flo published her art and poetry book, Dreaming of Glistening Pomelos, inspired by her childhood. A member of The Last Hoisan Poets, she reads with sister poets Genny Lim and Nellie Wong. Contemporary Asian Theater Scene presented Flo with their 2022 Image Hero Award.

Now eighty-five, Flo’s life comes full circle when The Community Rejuvenation Project proposes to paint a mural at 723 Webster, the former site of her family’s restaurant, the Great China. Flo’s beginnings in Oakland’s Chinatown come to life once more — this time through the eyes of another artist. Outside, muralist Desi Mundo renders Flo’s drawings of her immigrant family on the building which is now home to Imperial Soup. Inside, Flo and siblings Nellie and Bill swap stories about their formative years in Oakland Chinatown, dreaming of life beyond Ai Joong Wah, Great China.

The Wong family joins Roy Chan, Director of the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project for lunch at Imperial Soup, now owned and operated by Jack Chen at 723 Webster Street, the former location of The Great China, their family’s restaurant in Oakland Chinatown.

“The challenge has always been for me to hold on to my heritage while proudly proclaiming my life as an American.” — FLO OY WONG


Flo Oy Wong’s Oakland Chinatown Series, her first major body of work comprising of 35 autobiographical drawing created from 1983 to 1991, marked the beginning of a lifelong artistic exploration of visual art and poetry — an active career which now spans over 40 years.

“Born in Oakland, California, in 1938, Wong grew up in Oakland’s Chinatown. She was in her late thirties when, during the height of the feminist movement that she claims as an inspiration, she started taking art classes. Her first major body of work, her autobiographical Oakland Chinatown Series, emerged from her initial uncertain attempts to find her voice as a woman artist of Chinese descent. The thirty-five drawings in this series (1983-1991), some made directly from individual family photographs and others composites of several images, pay tribute to her extended family’s tightly interconnected lives and work as restaurateurs at the Great China Restaurant in Oakland from the 1940s into the 1960s.” – MELANIE HERZOG, “On Voice and Memory: Flo Oy Wong”

Great China Restaurant (or Ai Joong Wah) at 723 Webster Street in Oakland Chinatown was started and run from 1943 to 1961 by Gee Seow Hong and Gee Suey Ting, the parents of siblings Flo Oy Wong, Nellie Wong and William Wong.  

The Wong-Gee Family, Oakland, 1944

Left to right (standing) Nellie Wong, Gee Li Keng, Gee Li Hong, Henry Lew (spouse of Li Hong), Gee Lai Wah, Flo Oy Wong (in front of Lai Wah), and Leslie Wong. Seated are Gee Suey Ting, William Gee Wong, and Gee Seow Hong.

Ai Joong Wah, Great China Restaurant, photo by Flo Oy Wong

This photo of her mother and a cousin visiting from Canada, taken with a Brownie camera given to Flo by a customer, is among the collection of photographs that served as the foundation of Flo’s Oakland Chinatown Series (1983-91)

“My poetry collaborates with the body of artwork I created for 40 years.” — FLO OY WONG

Ai Joong Wah!

Great China!

Tanh Gawnh!


Ook Look Haw Ngin Fow!

Oakland Chinatown!


excerpt from Ai Joong Wah, Great China

I recall dark wooden booths,

Gold-trimmed oval mirrors,

Salmon-colored Formica counters,

Soda fountain at one end,

Refrigerator humming

At the side of the steam table,

Fragments of my childhood.


excerpt from Fragments of My Childhood


The 723 Mural, a project of the Community Rejuvenation Project and the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project. The mural by artists DESI MUNDO and FLO OY WONG, will be painted on the building at 723 Webster Street—once home to the Wong family’s restaurant, the Great China— featuring images from Flo Oy Wong’s Oakland Chinatown Series.

Mural project in coordination with ROY CHAN, Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project of the Oakland Asian Cultural Center with special thanks to DENISE CHINN, 723 Webster Street & JACK CHEN, Imperial Soup, Oakland, CA.

Connecting communities through stories of Asian American and Pacific Islanders from Silicon Valley and America

President Leianne Lamb of Contemporary Asian Theatre Scene (CATS) presents the 2022 Image Hero Award to Flo Oy Wong at the Silicon Valley Asian American FilmFest on October 28, 2022.

Contemporary Asian Theatre Scene (CATS) was started in 1995 by three visionaries who realized that Asian American artists needed a voice. Dr. Jerry Hiura, Steve Yamaguma, and Miki Hirabayashi created CATS with the dream of supporting, mentoring and, ultimately, presenting Asian American artists and art disciplines to the South Bay. CATS have showcased emerging playwrights and young actors with staged readings, comedians for Asian Comedy Night, musicians at San Jose Jazz Festival, aspiring performers with Talent to Go, and films and commentaries through our Silicon Valley Asian Pacific FilmFest.

9th Annual Silicon Valley Asian American Pacific Film Festival provides a platform for the artistry of story telling of the Asian and Pacific Islander through the lenses of the American experience, the imaginable and the unimaginable connecting our lives and communities through written words, song and performance.

Board of Directors

Leianne Wong Lamb, President

Cindy Toy, Vice President

Joanne Ho, Treasurer

LaDonna Yumori Kaku, Reiko Iwanaga, Secretary

Board Members

Neil Kozuma, Caroline Moore, Mark Young

Advisory Council

Karen Chow, Joanne Lin, Chris Sicat

Youth Advisory Council

Leads: Jordan Tachibana, Charlotte Ziang, Coby Chuang

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Leianne Lamb at CATS, catstheater@gmail.com

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