A documentation of my life in Mainland China’s relatives’ home
晚飯 | Dinner
再見 | Good bye
堂侄女畫的肖像 | Portraits by nieces
在這一個月中，我成為這個相當陌生的家庭中的一份子，每日共同起居飲食作息。除了逼着要用半桶水都冇的客家話，親身感受在內地生活的種種，我更體驗到和香港全然不同的「家庭生活」 — 三代同堂，共處於一棟屋中，關係緊密，尊卑分明；而三代又因成長背景差別甚巨，客、粵、普程度、喜好各異，一家人三種語言齊出常見。此語言的混雜、斷層，卻是不少東莞客家，以至中國家庭的寫照。
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My father is a Hakka (‘Hakka Chinese’ or ‘Hakka Han’) from Huangjiang, Dongguan, China. He came to Hong Kong in the 70s and has lived here since then. Like many Hong Kongers, Huangjiang Dongguan is our ‘hometown’, our ‘native place’ in Mainland China. Our relatives are there. We are supposed to visit them every Chinese New Year and Ching Ming Festival, but otherwise we do not often get in touch. My relatives and me share the same surname, but other than that we are maybe polarised: they live in a village, speak Hakka as mother tongue, and have lived in Mainland China where society and culture are largely different.
To further advance my Hakka, understand my ‘native place’ and my strangers-like relatives, I went back to Dongguan to live with my relatives’ home for a month of ‘family life’. I consider this an investigation into my hometown, my family history and identity.
During the stay, I become a member of this unfamiliar family, living in it. Other than inevitably speaking more (beginner’s) Hakka, experiencing ordinary life in Mainland China, I immersed in a totally different family life from Hong Kong: three generations in the same flat, closely tied and highly hierarchical. In addition, due to the backgrounds of the three generations are drastically different, every member’s proficiency in and preference for Hakka, Cantonese and Mandarin are all different. It is common for the family to switch between the three languages in everyday conversation. This hybridity and disconnection of language becomes a norm for Hakka families in Dongguan and many other families across China.
I feel like I am reconnected to my ‘native place’.
Documentation / Work
I use video and sound to document my family life, supplementing with photo and writing. Many of these happen when the family gathers: meals, watching television, and playing with children in bedroom. All these capture my family life here and the hybrid language environment. I have also collected drawings and objects (gifts) from my nephews.
Every family member was invited to read a self-chosen dialogue in at least one language, so as to read the dynamics between the three languages and three generations.
The materials shall be transposed into a video-based installation, displaying the sometimes warm, mostly mundane family life. The work would review life in Mainland China and explore my delicate relation with my ‘native land’.
三語練習 | Three-language exercise
日記 Diary (Chinese only)