Exhibition Essays

Reflections on The Asia-Pacific Century

November 2016

The Board, Various locations, Mostly in NZ but also New York

Lana Lopesi

­­­13 September 2016



A lot of things have been swirling in my head since the noho.

The day after the noho I gave a talk. I’m not sure how, but I ended up being the second speaker of a weeklong symposium. The guy before me was the international keynote. He was a designer based in America and he spoke really well.

So I got up and tried to be as ‘inefficient’ as possible. I acknowledged whose land we stood on and the powerful woman of colour who backed me enough to get me invited to the symposia in the first place. I traced my ancestory for 10 minutes staking my claim as an indigenous woman living in diaspora. I traced my family histories of migrant labour back to Southern China and Niue. I talked for an hour about 6 months of research which mostly existed of conversations with my Grandmother and exchanges over food. I traced the whakapapa of an idea and made them walk with me.

I didn’t ‘conveniently’ state that my research prioritises non-Western knowledge. I just presened it. I also didn’t state my thinking as ‘inefficient’ but just took the time neccesary.     

I had a lot of questions after which is always good sign. The American man asked me, “How can you tell if your research is progressing?” It was interesting because a clear move I made in structuring my talk was to repeat myself, to highlight how we return to thoughts over and over again, that is research. Rather than learning as what we think it is—lineal, with progession possible to measure. But I must of failed in making that repetition seem intentional, because repetition is not efficient and the American man was all about efficiency. 

A young Pākehā woman asked a question. She was pregnant and her childen were going to be mixed raced. The baby daddy was Thai/Chinese. She asked how she could help her children to have an active interest in their culture like I seem to have. How do you even answer that? Race isn’t something you choose to be interested in, it just comes at you. You have no choice. And as someone who has never experienced that, I didn’t know what to tell her. 

While I agonised over the form of my talk, I think a lot of my audience would have just left understanding it for it’s surface value—an island chick who went to Asia and is a little obsessed with food. I think that’s okay. It’s a shame but I can’t be responsible from saving everyone from their closed minds.

I feel a bit like we can’t just keep stating things, we have to be them.

When I do these things I feel like I’m being radical. Just being me is radical. I find that really empowering. I find The Board really empowering.

Looking forward to our next board meeting.

‘Ia manuia le aso,

Malo lava,