The 'Going Bananas' conferences Event


NameThe 'Going Bananas' conferences
Start Date3 June 2005
End Date1 June 2014
Organiser / VenueNew Zealand Chinese Association, Auckland Branch
CityTāmaki Makaurau Auckland


Going Bananas was a series of conferences organised by the New Zealand Chinese Association’s Auckland Branch, with events held in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2014. These 1-2 day conferences brought together speakers and attendees who were academics, members of the Chinese community, artists, historians, business people, and political figures, to talk about diaspora issues and stories. The conferences included several strands for creative practice, including a short story competition and talks featuring Aotearoa Asian artists, which, across the years, included artists, architects and designers such as Yuk King Tan and Liyen Chong, Roseanne Liang, Natalie Chan, Ron Sang, and Kerry Ann Lee.

Between 2005 and 2014, the Going Bananas conferences were an important forum for Chinese people with different interests to meet and hear from one another, as well as for younger generations to learn more about Chinese New Zealand history in a structured forum. Taking place across a decade of great change for Asian communities in Aotearoa, they also reflected many of the fractious social issues of the time, as well as differences between generations and between immigrants and established Chinese communities.

Announcing the first conference, NZCA Chairman Kai Luey said:

The thrust of the conference will be on the evolving identity of Chinese New Zealanders - past, present and future [...] It is a genuine attempt to bridge the gap in understanding between the descendants of the early settlers and recent migrants. At the same time we will challenge stereotypes and shift perceptions that mainstream society and media have of our communities.

The context for the conferences was a dramatically evolving Asian population in Aotearoa, following changes to immigration policy at the end of the 1980s that enabled more migrants from Asia, and from a wider variety of countries in Asia, to settle in Aotearoa New Zealand. This had altered perceptions of Asian communities and migrants in the media and among the general public, and some of the resulting issues were topics for discussion at the conferences. For example, the first conference’s final day included talks titled “How do we work with the Treaty of Waitangi” and “Dealing with discrimination”.

The conferences were fairly well attended. In 2009, documentary maker and conference organiser Liu Sueng Wong indicated that around 300 people were registered to attend that year. In the same article, Renee Liang wrote:

I have to say that I’m very proud of my Chinese ‘elders’ for organizing this conference. For indeed, it is our more mature leaders who are rounding everyone up for a big, old-fashioned korero. Including all those bright young things who are chafing at the bit. There’s everyone from politicians to business leaders to artists and musicians, and enough sessions for everyone to toss in their ideas.

The conferences were indeed a forum for differences in opinion. Writing about the 2005 conference, at which she was a speaker, Tze Ming Mok detailed heated exchanges rooted in deep-seated differences among attendees — including about the place of international students within the Auckland Chinese community and the use of the label ‘Asian’ versus ‘Chinese’. After the 2007 conference, Lincoln Tan reflected on ongoing tensions and differences between the established and immigrant Asian communities in Aotearoa:

The differences between the Chinese communities in New Zealand are huge, and I truly doubt there will ever be a time when they can connect without barriers or borders, as hoped by the conference organisers. But I think the Banana Conference plays an important role in bringing the different Chinese communities, who would otherwise have little to do with each other, together, to talk about these barriers and borders.

In 2014 the controversial property magnates and brothel operators, the Chow Brothers, spoke at the conference, and RNZ journalist Lynda Chanwai-Earle reported that many attendees left in protest, while others stayed behind to ask questions of their business ethics.

Reviewing the 2014 conference, Kristen Ng noted the wide-ranging scope of the discussions, describing the conference as “rife with interesting and noteworthy juxtapositions”, while also objecting to ongoing messages around assimilation and success underpinning the gathering. She also noted that the organisers signalled they were ready for others to pick up the mantle and organise future conferences.


Key works / presentations

2014 — Diverse Bananas, Global Dragons: International Conference, May 30-June 1, 2014, Business School, University of Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau

2009 — Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas, July 17–19, 2009, Fale Pasifika and Business School, University of Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau

2007 — Bananas NZ Going Global: International Conference, August 17–19, 2007, Fale Pasifika and Business School, University of Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau

2006 — Going Bananas: Multiple Identities Forum, August 11–12, 2006, Auckland Central Library and AUT, Tāmaki Makaurau

2005 — Crouching Tiger, Hidden Banana, June 3–5, 2005, Auckland Central Library and AUT, Tāmaki Makaurau

Last updated: 5 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


Illustration of a Chinese woman with bouncy hair standing in front of a shop called 'Lee's Fruit' with a man in an apron.

Advertisement for the Going Bananas conference in the Aotearoa Ethnic Network Journal, 2006

Flyer for a conference with a deep yellow background and an illustration of three Chinese kids riding a dragon around the world.

Going Bananas conference flyer, 2009

Flyer for a conference with a deep yellow background and an illustration of three Chinese kids riding a dragon around the world.

Going Bananas conference flyer, 2009

Comments on a Going Bananas conference page, date unknown

[pdf ↓]
Screenshot of a webpage with a press release about the Bananas conference.

Going Bananas press release, 2005

Going Bananas conference programme, 2005

[pdf ↓]

Going Bananas conference programme, 2006

[pdf ↓]

Going Bananas conference programme, 2007

[pdf ↓]

Going Bananas conference programme, 2009

[pdf ↓]

Going Bananas conference, programme for breakout talks, 2009

[pdf ↓]