Martijn from CinemAsia FilmLAB went to the event at Pakhuis de Zwijger organised by the PAC, Pan Asian Collective on Monday November 18 in the series Transnational Amsterdam of Pakhuis de Zwijger.
This was a really cool evening with a packed room. A range of creatives from the community introduced themselves and shared their experiences on being Chinese-Dutch. Pete Wu shared a passage from his new book de Bananengeneratie and afterward discussed his family history further. In the next segment a conversation was started with psychologist Lia Lu and real estate agent Albert-Jan Shi who also discussed some of the positive experiences they have as having both an Asian and Dutch identity. In the third segment of the evening there was a talk with creatives such as FilmLAB’s own filmmaker Jimmy Tai, Artist and activist Sioejeng Tsao, and dance and theatermaker Nita liem about the role of their cultural background in their art. The evening was pleasantly moderated by presenter Laiying Wang. Afterward the audience had the possibility to enjoy the arts works of diverse Chinese artists and photographers in the hallway.
The conversation also brought out interesting responses from the audience. For instance one woman shared the difficulties her son had at his school. He was being teased incessantly with his chinese identity and it appeared the school had done little to solve the problem. She wanted make a change! It became apparant that many in the audience could relate. Even recently two acquiantances of mine from the Chinese community shared their stories on how they, on an almost daily basis, still have to deal with a range of nasty comments and sarcastic Ni Hao’s from complete strangers on the streets of Amsterdam.
This might not be a big issue if it were an isolated incident. But this happens structurally! It reveals how common this issue still is. Thus far the Chinese community has appeared to be more divided and less verbal as was also brought during the event. That’s why this almost daily discrimination still seems to be completely invisible to many in the Netherlands. The first changes appeared when the action Nummer 39 with Rice took place after Dutch Celebrity Gordon joked about a Chinese contestant on Holland’s got Talent and afterward received backlash.
A new phase
Now it seems as if the conversation is entering a new fase by for example Pete Wu’s book, Sioejeng Tsao’s outspokeness and others who appear to be more willing to speak up and to use this in their art and share it with the public at large. Luckily for the woman in the audience there was a lawyer present willing to help the woman further in her legal struggles with the school.
Obviously there is still much to do to improve the representation of the Chinese community in the Netherlands and to reveal how ignorant and short sighted some people still deal with their fellow Dutch neighbours. But an event such as this event really helps! It doesn’t shy away from having this tough conversation. It starts a dialogue and helps connect and inspire the Chinese community. May there be many more of these nights to bring the community together and to celebrate their art inspired by both a Dutch and a Chinese identity.
If you are curious to learn more then please listen to the Pakhuis de Zwijger podcast interview with Pete Wu. Be aware: tt is in Dutch!