Wedding Dresses & Dog Tags

 
 
 

J. Alfred John AGHAN 1890-1961

I never knew my grandfather, J. Alfred John AGHAN, he passed away before I was born. My father, Alfred Murray Lionel AGHAN, never spoke much of him or his history, only that he fought in WW I in the Middle East. The only artefacts I knew of were his war medals. I would proudly wear them as a child, with my father, who wore his own medals, in the ANZAC Day march in Sydney. When I turned 40, my father gave me the medals and badges of my grandfather which are displayed in a wooden frame.

I wish my father had told me more about my grandfather and his artefacts. We have only recently discovered my family’s past history including the fact that we are descended from China and that our surname was changed during the whites-only policy in 1904. It was changed so that we could fit into society and feel more like Australians. At the same time, my father found out he had 13 aunties and uncles but he only knew five.

Regarding the other artefacts, my father had taken them first to the Australian War Memorial. They were not interested in them. He then took them to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (he did fight for the Auckland Mounted Rifles after all). They sat there for 16 years collecting dust. Four years ago when my father’s health got worse, he asked me to follow up. I did, and in November 2016, the Auckland War Memorial Museum finally put on a display in recognition of the Chinese who fought in the war.

That same month, my mother passed away so neither of my parents got to see the hard work that went into getting the artefacts on display. In fact, after my mother’s passing, a treasure trove of grandfather’s artefacts was uncovered in the house. I have come to the conclusion that my family had lots of secrets. Maybe that is why I never saw these artefacts until now.

In the photograph, I held my grandfather’s dog tags for the first time in my life. They were specially removed from the display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It was very moving to have the photo taken by King Tong HO, with the dog tags.

 

Grandson

Brett AGHAN

2017

 

Wedding Dresses and Dog Tags

The year 1943 is of transcultural significance to the Chinese in New Zealand. Sylvia LAW * (née GEE) was the first Chinese who embraced the Western tradition to wear a White-wedding dress. She married Dr Roy LAW on 19th January 1943 in the first Chinese wedding held at the Presbyterian First Church in Dunedin. I paired up her white wedding dress with the Chinese wedding coat that Maggie RUSSELL (née REID) collected during her career as a missionary in China in 1896 - 1908 and from 1930 until the end of WWII.

Both dresses are currently held by Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. When I set up the shot at the Museum, I couldn’t forget the softness and delicacy of the dresses and their entangling cultural intricacy. The Chinese ‘loosely’ fitting and the Western ‘tightly’ fitting garments respectively hide and reveal the woman’s body form, and indicate ideological differences between the cultures.

I paired up the Wedding Dresses with the Dog Tags of Alfred AGHAN. Putting the two seemingly unrelated photographs together signifies that there is no cultural or geographical boundary in human kindness. 

J. Alfred John AGHAN (1890-1961) was one of the few Chinese Australians who fought for New Zealand in WWI, in the Middle East. His father William Young AH GAN was born in 1837 in Canton, South China. His Chinese name is YOUNG Ah Gan. He came to Australia around 1880 to mine for gold in Beachworth, Victoria. He married Eliza SOUTHGATE on 28th March 1887 at Wahgunyah, Victoria.

This photograph of grandson, Brett AGHAN, holding the dog tags of Alfred is a moving moment. “We only recently discovered my family’s past history, that we are descendants from China and that our surname was changed from AH GAN in 1904 during the whites-only policy. It was changed so that we could fit into society and feel more like Australians. At the same time, my father found out he had 13 aunties and uncles of which he knew only five.” (Brett AGHAN, 2017).

 

* Refer Seán BROSNAHAN, “Catalogue on Chinese artefacts”, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, accessioned 15 September 2015.

 

 

King Tong HO

2018


J. Alfred John AGHAN 1890-1961

我从前不了解祖父J. Alfred John AGHAN,在我出生前他已离世。父亲 Alfred Murray Lionel AGHAN 甚少谈及他及他的历史,只述及第一次世界大战时他为纽西兰参予在中东的战役,也知道收藏有他的战争勲章。年幼时、我戴着祖父的勲章, 而父亲也戴着他自己的勲章, 骄傲地一同参加在悉尼举行的澳纽军团日游行。我四十岁时,父亲把祖父的徽章和奖章装在镜框里送给我。

真希望父亲曾告诉我多些关于祖父的事情和他的遗物。只在近期我才了解家族的历史:包括我们是中国的后裔;一九零四年在白澳政策下, 为着让家人更像澳洲人而更改了我们的姓氏、使更能融入社群。同时、父亲一向只知道有五位叔伯婶婶,之后获悉原来共有十三位。

关于祖父 Alfred 的遗物,父亲最先意欲送给澳洲战争纪念馆,但他们不感兴趣。后来父亲把它们送往奥克兰战争纪念博物馆(祖父曾为奥克兰步枪团), 但却被搁置了 十六年。四年前父亲健康转差,我受父命与博物馆联系。于二零一六年十一月,博物馆终于把表扬华裔参战的历史展出。

同一个月,母亲过世,双亲都未能看到他们努力成果的展出。母亲离世后,我们才在屋内发现更多祖父珍贵的遗物及其隐含的事蹟。

照片中,我拿着祖父的军人名牌让何经棠先生拍摄,它是特别从奥克兰战争纪念博物馆展厅中取出来的。有生以来我首次拿着它,非常感动。

 

孙儿

Brett AGHAN

2017

 

结婚礼服和军人名牌

一九四三年对新西兰华人具有跨文化的特殊意义。这年的一月十九日、Sylvia LAW* 是第一位华裔,依照西方传统、穿着白色婚纱、与 Dr Roy LAW 在但尼丁的 Presbyterian First Church举行婚礼。我把这婚纱与 Maggie RUSSELL (nee REID) 在中国收集到的中式婚服配对。Maggie RUSSELL 曾在一八九六年至一九零八年、又从一九三零年至第二次世界大战结束、在中国当传教士。这两件婚服都收藏在 Toitū Otago Settlers Museum。我无法忘怀在博物馆拍摄时、礼服的温柔细致和结缠着的复杂文化交织。中式衣服的宽松和西式的紧贴,从隐晦或突显女性身体线条的角度上,体现了意识形态上的中西文化差异。

我把婚服与 Alfred AGHAN 的军人名牌 (dog tag**) 两张看似没有关连的照片放在一起, 是要显示人性的善良是没有文化和地域上的界限。

J. Alfred John AGHAN 生于一八九零年,卒于一九六一年,是极少数的华裔澳洲军人,在第一次世界大战时为纽西兰在中东参战。他的父亲 William Young AH GAN 于一八三七年在中国广州出生,中文名字是YOUNG Ah Gan,大约在一八八零年往澳洲 Victoria 的 Beachworth 采金;于一八八七年三月二十八日在 Victoria 的 Wahgunyah 与 Eliza SOUTHGATE 结婚。

照片中、孙子 Brett AGHAN 双手捧著 Alfred 的名牌,是感动的时刻。在二零一七年时他说:“只在近期我们才发现家族的过往历史;我们是华人的后代;一九零四年在白澳政策下、为了融入社群、使要像澳洲人一样、我们的姓氏从 AH GAN更改为 AGHAN。此外,父亲获悉他原来共有十三位叔伯婶婶,以往他只知道有五位。”

 

* 于二零一五年九月十五日参考自 Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Seán BROSNAHAN     “中国文物目录”。

** Dog tag 人身份标签牌的暱称,上刻有人的个人料。

 

 

何经棠

2018


J. Alfred John AGHAN 1890-1961

我從前不了解祖父J. Alfred John AGHAN,在我出生前他已世。父 Alfred Murray Lionel AGHAN 甚少及他及他的史,只述及第一次世界大戰時他為紐西蘭予在中役,也知道收藏有他的戰爭勲章。年幼、我戴著祖父的, 而父戴著他自己的, 傲地一同加在悉尼舉行的澳紐軍團行。我四十歲時,父親把祖父的徽章和獎章裝在鏡框裏送給我。

真希望父曾告我多些於祖父的事情和他的遺物。只在近期我才了解家族的史:包括我是中的後裔;一九零四年在白澳政策下, 家人更像澳洲人而更改了我們的姓氏、使更能融入社群。同、父一向只知道有五位叔伯嬸嬸,之後悉原共有十三位。

於祖父 Alfred 的遺物,父最先意欲送澳洲戰爭紀,但他不感趣。後來父把它送往蘭戰爭紀念博物(祖父曾為奧槍團, 但卻被擱置了 十六年。四年前父健康差,我受父命與博物館聯系。於二零一六年十一月,博物館終於把表揚參戰史展出。

同一月,母親過世,雙親都未能看到他努力成果的展出。母親離世後,我才在屋內發現更多祖父珍的遺物及其隱含的事蹟。

照片中,我拿著祖父的軍人名牌讓何經棠先生拍攝,它是特別從奧克蘭戰爭紀念博物館展廳中取出來的。有生以來我首次拿著它,非常感動。

 

孫兒

Brett AGHAN

2017

 

結婚禮服和軍人名牌

一九四三年對紐西蘭華人具有跨文化的特殊意義。這年的一月十九日、Sylvia LAW* 是第一位華裔,依照西方傳統、穿著白色婚紗、與 Dr Roy LAW 在但尼丁的 Presbyterian First Church舉行婚禮。我把這婚紗與 Maggie RUSSELL (nee REID) 在中國收集到的中式婚服配對。Maggie RUSSELL 曾在一八九六年至一九零八年、又從一九三零年至第二次世界大戰結束、在中國當傳教士。這兩件婚服都收藏在 Toitū Otago Settlers Museum。我無法忘懷在博物館拍攝時、禮服的溫柔細緻和結纏著的複雜文化交織。中式衣服的寬鬆和西式的緊貼,從隱晦或突顯女性身體線條的角度上,體現了意識形態上的中西文化差異。

我把婚服與 Alfred AGHAN 的軍人名牌 (dog tag**)兩張看似沒有關連的照片放在一起, 是要顯示人性的善良是沒有文化和地域上的界限。

J. Alfred John AGHAN 生於一八九零年,卒於一九六一年,是極少數的華裔澳洲軍人,在第一次世界大戰時為紐西蘭在中東參戰。他的父親 William Young AH GAN 於一八三七年在中國廣州出生,中文名字是YOUNG Ah Gan,大約在一八八零年往澳洲 Victoria Beachworth 採金;於一八八七年三月二十八日在 Victoria Wahgunyah Eliza SOUTHGATE 結婚。

照片中、孫子 Brett AGHAN 雙手捧著 Alfred 的名牌,是感動的時刻。在二零一七年時他説:「只在近期我們才發現家族的過往歷史;我們是華人的後代;一九零四年在白澳政策下、為了融入社群、使要像澳洲人一樣、我們的姓氏從 AH GAN更改為 AGHAN。此外,父親獲悉他原來共有十三位叔伯嬸嬸,以往他只知道有五位。」

 

* 於二零一五年九月十五日參考自 Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Seán BROSNAHAN 的    「中國文物目錄」。

** Dog tag 是軍人身份標籤牌的暱稱,上刻有軍人的個人資料。

 

 

何經棠

2018