Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A photographic journey

Being Chinese in Aotearoa

Cantonese cabin steward Appo Hocton arrived in Nelson in 1842. He was the first of many Chinese settlers who came to Aotearoa New Zealand and started a new life on our shores. Since then, many more have followed, including pioneering gold miners, merchants, architects and entrepreneurs, and today, the Chinese community of New Zealand make up one of our largest ethnic populations.  At the most recent count, approximately 170,000 people make up the Chinese population including long established communities, recent migrants from China as well as other parts of the world, and New Zealand born Chinese.

To honour this history Auckland War Memorial Museum’s latest exhibition: Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A photographic journey was opened on Friday night the 10th February. The exhibition offers a rich, multi-faceted perspective of the Chinese community’s contribution and commitment to New Zealand. As part of the project, a book Recollections of a Distant Shore: New Zealand Chinese in Historical Images was produced by social historian Dr. Phoebe H. Li in collaboration with photographic historian John B Turner. Together their efforts present a carefully curated selection of over a 100 photographs that speak to this history – a story that spans a 175 years of Chinese in New Zealand.

The event was extremely well attended with numerous descendants of the pioneering Chinese immigrants and new settlers, media, scholars and government officials. Heather Harris, Acting Director and Chief Operating Officer from Auckland Museum, addressed the importance of the exhibition: it sheds the light on reflective stories of our rich shared history of significant contribution that the Chinese community has made to Aotearoa.

Contemporary artworks are also part of a new series created by renowned graphic artist Ant Sang (bro’Town ,The Dharma Punks) and writer Helene Wong (Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story) to produce stories from some of Auckland’s most inspiring Chinese artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, athletes, and more.  The exhibition has been travelled from Beijing to Auckland, and well received by media and audience.  It will be held in Auckland Museum for a year. You can find out more on the Auckland Museum website.