I was aware that the Grandmother I grew up with, was my Father's step mother, my grandfather's second wife Ada, who was born in Australia. It often made me question where my Father's actual mother was? As I started to unravel this question further, I realised that my absent, almost forgotten Grandmother Ao Hou Hong was unable to migrate to Australia in the early part of the twentieth century due to strict immigration policy and social circumstances throughout the early part of the twentieth century which often excluded Chinese people. It was a time when white migration was the preference and Chinese families often faced complex bureaucracy in attempting to stay together, as a result Chinese wives and children often stayed in China and Chinese people were seen with suspicion, a result of anti-communist sentiment of the era. My Father doesn't recall seeing his Father much when he was growing up and really only got to know him when he migrated himself as an adult to Australia in 1958. Our family histories have often been dominated by the men in our family, yet I feel there is also an unknown female story to tell here.
As a result my Grandmother never relocated to Australia and I never had the chance to get to know her. Over many years I have gathered various bits of information about her, to slowly create an account of the life that she must have had. My family were landowners in China, as a result of having fruit orchards in Australia, their properties in China were stripped from the family during the Cultural Revolution era, with my grandmother having to share the family house with other people from the wider community, whilst the rest of the family had escaped to Australia.
I have heard stories about how she visited Australia before I was born and how heart breaking it was for her to see that her husband and family had moved on and had their own lives here in Australia without her. These stories have informed this work, it was through her absence that I imagined a relationship with her. Specifically I have created a white dinner setting, symbolising the context of our family situation.