Christchurch writers have made the first anthology of Asian-New Zealand creative writing come alive at WORD Christchurch Festival 2021! The anthology entitled A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand was edited by Paula Morris and Alison Wong and published in May this year.
This collection of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction by seventy-five emerging Asian writers is remarkable. It declares an end to the situation of Asian writers' under-representation in national literature. Contributors of the anthology including E Wen Wong, Nod Ghosh, Russell Boey, Melanie Kwang, and host Neema Singh presented the work with special guest Jeffrey Zhao on the erhu, a traditional Chinese music instrument.
The session started with a euphonious erhu music piece performed by Jeffrey Zhao who is teaching traditional Chinese music at the University of Canterbury. Then, Neema Singh introduced the audience to the landmark collection based on Paula's and Alison's Introduction to the anthology, thanked the New Zealand Asian Foundation for its support, and shared a video message from Alison Wong who was in Australia. Alison is proud of the contributors with "the very talented, the very diverse emerging voices" and said,
"I hope this is a window into the future -- rich, respectful partnerships, learning from each other, working together, building Aotearoa New Zealand."
Following this, Nod Ghosh, E Wen Wong, Russell Boey, Neema Singh, and Melanie Kwang went on board one by one to read and discuss both their own and other contributors' works which are parts of the anthology.
Nod Ghosh read The knot in the cream Sari to explore her family history and trace her roots outside New Zealand. For contributors, the concept of identity is an ongoing act of discovery. Diaspora identity is reimagined by individuals and generations in new places.
E Wen Wong read her One world sleeps in an apple and My parents are in life and are not on the phone book. She invited the audience to think about how we experience the world and how we reflect on the differences around us. Poetry is a medium for her to constantly search for ways to make a difference in the world.
Russell Boey reflected on his experience of growing up in Christchurch and visiting Singapore, where his ancestors lived. He read his contribution Pooch sticks to explore the ideas of being Asian and belonging.
Neema Singh's work traces identities driven by places. The three pieces, she read, The proper way to make tea, Offering, Gujarati Khichdi presented the diversity of experiences, places, and heritage and a reflection of how things are now.
Melanie Kwang shared her family photo, which was taken in Taishan, China, and her experience of growing up in New Zealand and visiting China. She questioned her identities as either a New Zealander or a Chinese and read an extract of her contribution Purgatory II to reflect on the concept of diaspora identity.
Within the hour, presenters also read the pieces in the anthology by other contributors. Not only did they explore heritages contained in the book - stories, journeys, new lives, old cultures, and disasters, but also shared their concerns on issues they face along with other New Zealanders like mental health and climate change. When they celebrated ancestors in both New Zealand and elsewhere, their voices were assembled beautifully with traditional Chinese music. As Alison said,
No matter what our lineages or our histories, no matter what our faith or practice, no matter what we look like and sound like, together, we are all New Zealanders..