Hainamana

Julie Zhu's portrait series, Hainamana, investigates contemporary Chinese-Aoteroa identity through the photographic lens.


The Chinaman carefully placed the fruit in a rush basket, and then offered his visitor a cup of tea.

“I grow plentee good melon, plentee fine tomato, plentee plentee other ting like you know; velly heavee to caree.”

“It’s nice to feel ‘em lightening by the way, isn’t it, when the coin begins to chink in the pocket instead? Business good, Sam?”

“Prettee fair. Fearful long way I go to-mollow, George.”

“You go by the new road Is’pose?”

“ ’Es. Long way.”

“Nice lot of shade along it.”

The Oriental countenance remained blank, no visible attention was paid to the remark.

Ah Sam, The Chinaman; An Island IncidentNew Zealand Herald, 1916 


As a term, ‘Chinaman’ has a pejorative quality which national identifiers like ‘Englishman’ or ‘Irishman’ don’t have.

The term is from an era when Chinese were viewed as odd, lesser than, and ‘Other’. It references a time when all Chinese were viewed with fear and disgust, imported as indentured labourers, and denied basic legal rights, here and in many other countries. Contemporarily, we see this narrative on repeat with waves of reinvented attempts to dehumanise and strip Chinese New Zealanders of our individuality.

In an Aotearoa context, ‘Hainamana’ layers further complexity through the lens of indigeneity for tauiwi in a settler colonial state.


Julie Zhu's portrait series investigates contemporary Chinese-Aoteroa identity through the photographic lens.

Presented as part of Exhibit Q in conjunction with the 2017 MATCHBOX Season of OTHER [chinese], and continues through the Barfoot & Thompson Lounge, Q's internal stairwell and Loft Foyer. The exhibition is generously supported through a grant from the Waitemata Local Board.

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