WHEN most people think of early Chinese settlement in Ballarat – the image of a male miner comes to mind.
A new M.A.D.E exhibition Chinese fortunes will delve behind this longheld stereotype, showcasing stories of thousands of early Chinese Australians who were gardeners, merchants, storekeepers, furniture makers, detectives, philanthropists and entertainers.
Exhibition curator Cash Brown has collected dozens of items from 12 different galleries over a six month period.
“In the past 30 years, our understanding of the history of Chinese Australians has been remade,” Ms Brown said.
“Thanks to a growing community of researchers and histories we have new insights into the political, economic and cultural dimensions of Chinese Australian experiences.”
The objects range from beautiful crockery, furniture, copies of Chinese newspaper to clothing and banners intricately stitched and often imported from China.
M.A.D.E acting chief executive Sarah Masters said particularly significant items included Dolly Nomchong’s mother’s wedding skirt.
Dolly is famously pictured wearing her mother’s wedding outfit, which included the showcased 1890s skirt.
The silk skirt is completely hand stitched and prominently features butterflies which are frequently featured in Chinese embroidery, Ms Masters said.
Other significant items include hand stitched banners from Bendigo.
Despite facing great discrimination in the goldfields, during the mid-1850s Chinese communities were known to provide charitable support to hospitals and other projects that benefited the broader community.
Chinese community members paraded in events, including the Bendigo Easter parade, donating cash and other items. Intricate banners were held during parades and were used until the 1950s.
“Chinese communities in Bendigo and Ballarat were very civic minded and used to work collaboratively to raise funds for the good of the community,” Ms Masters said.
“There was a collective idea of Chinese success and and that by being part of the the wider Australian community they could get hold of opportunities that came their way and share them with the wider community.”
The exhibition will open on Chinese New Year on January 28 and will run until June 25.
“Creating the exhibition was like finding puzzles and putting a jigsaw together,” Ms Masters said.
In the past 30 years, our understanding of the history of Chinese Australians has been remade.Cash Brown, curator