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Melissa Chiu, Museum Director and Curator for Contemporary Asian and Asian-American art at the Asia Society, has had a long involvement with Asian contemporary art and is recognized as a[…]

The diaspora is more wedded to Chinese culture than China is.

Topic: The Chinese Diaspora

Melissa Chiu: Well I think that my first contact was even not so much with China, but more with Hong Kong because my father’s family were based there. We would spend a lot of time in Hong Kong, at least, visiting our families and relative . . . our family and relatives there. And so I think that Hong Kong in many ways is what you might call a China in diaspora. So it’s China, but it’s also a little bit different because it hasn’t experienced the same kinds of things that mainland China . . . that have defined modern . . . mainland China such as the Cultural Revolution. I think that my upbringing was unusual in that, like most children of that time and certainly in Australia, I think that what had happened was that my father very much wanted his children to be Australian. And so I think my mother really wanted us to be Chinese in influence and my father really wanted us to be Australian. And so I come from very much a kind of biracial household, if you like.  I think that on the one hand, these . . . this younger generation is given a voice; but I think what is . . . what is also interesting to note about China right now is that the generation of artists who are mostly in their 50s right now, a lot of them left China around . . . _____ the time of ’89. And they ______ different art centers around the world, most likely Paris and New York, in fact. And what’s really interesting about this is that there has been a huge return to the homeland. And many of these artists, even if they still continue to reside outside of China, have come to work at a high level with either business or government policy figures to actually influence China. And so I would say that certainly that generation who are in their 50s now have come of age. And they have a great deal of importance . . . important roles to play within society . . . within Chinese society. But what’s interesting about the diaspora population is that they obviously bring to China a different set of values that has been changed by their living outside of China for over a decade now.


Recorded on: 7/11/07