Home Made: picturing Chinese settlement in New Zealand Book / Publication / Landmark Writing


NameHome Made: picturing Chinese settlement in New Zealand
Writer(s)Kerry Ann Lee
PublisherMassey University, Wellington
Type of TextThesis
ArtformVisual arts
CityPōneke Wellington


Home Made is an artist book and written thesis created in 2008 by artist, designer and educator Kerry Ann Lee, during her Master's in Design at Massey University Wellington. The written thesis surveys existing writing about Cantonese New Zealand history, while the artist book explores the ongoing fashioning of Cantonese diaspora identity in Aotearoa through image-making. Lee’s careful and wide-ranging research, and the vibrant and inventive imagery she produced for the project, have made her thesis a valuable source of information and inspiration for researchers and artists in the years since it was published. It has been cited by Grace Yee, Lana Lopesi, Jane Simon, Michelle Erai and more. Lee has said, “Home Made and a written thesis were the product of that year. It was fifty hardbacks and 100 softback editions. There are a few things in there that people found kind of useful for research in many respects.”

Filled with illustrations, the artist book explores the Cantonese settlement history of New Zealand through the spaces of the kitchen, family home, and family businesses such as restaurants. It is structured into three parts. The first “focuses on gold as the primary agent for transforming sojourner to settler.” The second focuses on the establishment of Chinese restaurants in Wellington from the 1950s to the 1980s, and the third celebrates the emergence of new voices that acknowledge the history of Chinese New Zealanders and transcend imposed stereotypes.

The experiences of Lee’s own family and their businesses — The Favorite Milk Bar on Adelaide Road and the Gold Coin Cafe on Willis Street — are woven through the artist book. It also contains poems and excerpts from newspapers and text from other contemporary sources.

The book is presented in a landscape format, allowing panoramic illustrations to spill across the page. It combines what Lee describes as “the unseen flotsam and jetsam of Chinese Kiwi life” into detailed and colourful collages that reflect her interest in cut-and-paste zine culture. Combining found imagery with hand painted and hand drawn elements, the book already displays the distinctive and appealing trademarks of Lee’s artistic style.

In August 2008, Lee launched her first solo exhibition, Home Made: Picturing Chinese Settlement in New Zealand. The exhibition featured dioramas, installation and collage artworks featured in the book, at Toi Pōneke Art Centre and gathered national media acclaim. A response essay, titled Dream of the Skyland by Steve Kerr, was published in The National Grid, Issue 5 (2009). The exhibition toured to Dunedin in February 2009 and was presented at a public talk at the Asian American Art Centre (AAAC), while on an artist residency at SVA in New York City. Artwork from Home Made was also featured in The Asia-Pacific Century (2016-2017) curated by Emma Ng and Ioana Gordon-Smith.


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'Dream of the Skyland' — a review by Steve Kerr, The National Grid 5, 2009

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Kerry Ann Lee, Home Made — artist book, 2008

[pdf ↓]