Loss, in Transition
The body of the 950 hums. Heat radiating from the motor upon the soles of my feet, glistening crystal water affixed within the speckled window frame. The land and Matilda bay were picturesque and untainted, a blessed sight to behold. Within the vehicle a different scene unfolds, a group of Anglo-Saxon Australians share about their Visa application for Chinese school trip to which they poke around the idea of faking a mandarin name by placing random zodiac signs such as dragon (龙) or lion (狮子) to insinuate a sense of authenticity for their experience there. Amongst them, two peers of Asian descent hesitantly laugh along amidst the banter. My heart falls yet again; it was not that long ago where the casual “little chinky” was hurled across the roads of Northbridge, or whispered under a muttered breath brushing upon our flushed cheeks as though it should be accepted as a compliment during a hike up zig-zag drive. Within our souls, a fire burns, as we bite our tongues and walk on with eyes lowered. Humbleness takes on another meaning as we pull our sweaters across our shoulders, a physical barrier against the cultural cold.
East Meets West Work Culture Clash, a Dilemma in Practice
At meetings, upon entering a conversation, the subject often takes a detour toward themes such as origin and ethnicity and how Asian colleagues were not able to have the freedom to express certain things, or were looked down upon because of certain practices inculcated by generational habits of the past. Like a fish out of water, we smile, we feel like a specimen in a petting zoo.
“How Fascinating!”, they proclaim.
The Chinese Society WA walked me through a traditional narrative of an ancient scholar's love lost, and then atop a mountain of a Hainanese folktale. Junting Chen plays the classic “Seasons” on her Guzheng in hopes to explore four different emotions, joy, sadness, anger and regret. She wove those narratives through sound, to which we Asians could see that night. The notion of the exotic perpetuated by sociolinguistics and mannerism exudes to this day and carries forth in the realm of academia as well. Chinese culture is a highly contextual culture. A simple proverb (成语) brings about innate understanding and wisdom, the beauty and sublime experienced through such poetics comes to an abrupt halt when the phrase How Fascinating! Reemerges amongst Anglo-Saxon researchers who hope to include this as a commentary for the next dissertation they are about to write.
As an Asian reading a subject (Art History) entrenched in a colonial past, I recognise the many initiatives hoping to decolonise practice for a more inclusive methodology. Curator Claudio Mattos notes in writing that there is a shift away from the mere aesthetics of form within institution toward socio-politically engaging narratives, and I believe ABC issue is a perfect platform to tackle the cultural barriers-to-entry for our people and look forward to reading all the other articles that have yet to be published.
Dear ABC Issue,
I thank you