Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A photographic journey

Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A photographic journey

Appo Hocton, November 1876. Nelson Provincial Museum, W E Brown Collection: 13043

Appo Hocton, November 1876. Nelson Provincial Museum, W E Brown Collection: 13043

Auckland Museum

10 February 2017 - 21 January 2018

Curated by Dr. Phoebe H. Li in collaboration with John B Turner.

Press release:

Explore the dynamic stories of Chinese life in New Zealand in Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A photographic journey, a new exhibition celebrating 175-years of Chinese New Zealanders.

Launching in February during the hugely popular Lantern Festival in Auckland Domain, you’ll be able to uncover the rich and varied experiences of Chinese people in New Zealand between the frames of close to 100 compelling and rarely-seen photographs.

Follow the story from the first settler Appo Hocton who arrived in 1842 to new migrants in the 2000s, from pioneering goldminers and merchants to architects and entrepreneurs, from early settlers to established communities.

Curated by social historian Dr. Phoebe H. Li in collaboration with photographic historian John B Turner, this exemplary collection of photographs was selected from a pool of nearly 10,000 from 16 public institutions including Archives New Zealand, the National Library of New Zealand and private family collections.

Li says it’s a unique chance to shine a light on an often misunderstood history. “Through hard physical labour, self-sacrifice, determination and innovation, the Chinese, from the very beginning, have participated in and contributed to the building of New Zealand as a young modern nation,” she says.

“Using fine photographs to tell and retell the stories of Chinese in New Zealand, both past and present, we aim to give a general audience an introduction to this complicated history as viewed from various angles, yet with a positive attitude to the future of our diverse country,” she says.

The exhibition also features a new series of contemporary artworks created by renowned graphic artist Ant Sang (bro’Town ,The Dharma Punks) and writer Helene Wong (Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story). The first-time collaborators have collected stories from some of Auckland’s most inspiring Chinese artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, athletes, and more.

The resulting comic-book artworks follow a boy and his grandmother as they take a tour of contemporary Auckland and meet some of these fascinating figures along the way, bringing their stories to life with colour, humour, pathos and great insight.

Admire Chinese taonga from the Museum’s applied arts collection, and hear New Zealanders speak about what being Chinese means to them through films and oral histories.

Auckland Museum Director of Public Experience Sally Manuireva says the exhibition is a milestone for the Museum. “This exhibition marks an important moment as we build on our long and valued history with the Chinese community in Tāmaki Makaurau, from our role as a kaitiaki (guardian) of an extensive collection of Chinese objects through to our annual Cultural Festival.”

“We’re proud to present this exhibition which will appeal not just to Chinese New Zealanders but all New Zealanders and international visitors alike,” she says.