By: Michael Harvey , Category: At The Museum, Date: 15 Oct 2010

This week, the Museum is opening Banana-kids – a small, experimental, mini-exhibition in our main temporary space.

Banana-kids is a collection of quirky and expressive sculptures, by Chinese Australian ceramic artist Douglas Cham. These sculptures, 12 in all, are over-sized chopstick-holders, depicting Australian native animals emerging from banana skins. They refer to Chinese Australians, and each member of the family of sculptures represents ‘Chineseness’ as well as certain characteristics of Australian culture.

Bliss Jensen, one of our exhibition project coordinators, reviewed this collection last year on East Side Radio 2RES:
Douglas Cham’s polished earthenware packs a political punch and reflects on his personal experience of displacement as a Chinese male in Australia. The title Banana-kids, is drawn from the term used by immigrant Chinese about first generation children, inferring “yellow on the outside, but white on the inside”… They are beautifully rendered pieces which make you want to move right up close to view them. Upon doing so, you are confronted with a subtle sourness in the detail, such as the red inked banana brand stamp on each skin showing the date 1901-1973, the lengthy period of the White Australia Policy. Through his ceramics, Cham isn’t just reflecting his personal immigrant experience and the tension between traditional and Western culture, he also looks at his standing in a broader, collective, Australian position on cultural relations, to expose some interesting tensions.

Projects such as this give us the chance to explore and reflect on the diversity of our contemporary culture, and what happens when different cultures come together. Our museum is a great place to try new ways of sharing and discussing these issues. We would love to hear what you think, both about the issues raised in this installation, and about the installation itself, so please leave your comments here!

Banana-kids is on show at the Museum until November 21st.

And if you do visit, you may hear some construction work going on behind the walls – that’s our next exhibition going up – tell you more about that one later…


Michael Harvey - 11.12 AM, 22 December 2010

Hi Irene,

Many thanks for your feedback - you make a good point re promoting the show earlier. As it happens, we actually programmed the display in to our schedule relatively late, as the opportunity became available between two longer-running exhibitions. Our production team did a fantastic job in getting it all together in just a few weeks, but it did mean we had less time to promote it than we usually have.

We'll certainly be taking these positive comments as encouragement to do more displays like this one!

Best regards,
Michael H

irenebe - 5.12 PM, 19 December 2010
My impression regarding the Banana Kid exhibition is: this installation is a magic! The technique Douglas has applied to communicate with the audience is well executed. He is dealing with a very serious and sensitive issue in the Australian community, i.e. racial discrimination. However, the parody employed in his works was tactically reflecting on ‘Aussie culture’ and had the visitors giggling in their hearts. Obviously, it touches the hearts of a number of audiences, especially the Australian Chinese migrants. I’m glad that I have managed to see it after recommended by my colleague. It is much more exciting than what I have been told and expected. The craftsmanship of the Banana-kids is superb. Absolutely fascinating! It is a pity that the Museum did not advertised and promoted it earlier as it usually does for other exhibitions! Such a great exhibition should have lasted for another month at least since most of us have to work on weekdays and sometimes even weekend. Many of my friends have to give it a miss. It is great for the Museum extend the opening hours one day a week next February.
SWong - 10.11 AM, 19 November 2010
It is a great exhibition. The Banana-kids is beautiful indeed and touching especially for my generation coming from overseas.The round table set up has meaning beyond what you can humanly see.The video really gives good understanding of the design. Thanks for this great show...

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