Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, Fruit Song 生果文, 2022. Habotai silk, silk dye, freshwater pearls, 花带 patterned braids, linocut print, polyamide thread, cotton, vinyl lettering, wall paint, multichannel audio (5:20 minutes), dimensions variable. Installation view, NAS Gallery, Sydney, 2022. Photo: Tim Connolly.
哭嫁 or ‘bridal laments’ refer to a marital mourning ritual of the 圍頭 (Waitau/Weitou) people, the first settlers of Hong Kong. To Waitau women, arranged marriages signified a kind of death. Upon marriage, a bride’s ties to home were severed and she would remain an outsider to the groom’s family. The bride-to-be would perform a lament cycle which involved singing and weeping in front of loved ones for three days.
Chan has Waitau ancestry through her mother who never learnt the laments as the oral tradition faded in the 1960s. With the help of her mother as translator, Chan has relearned these traditional songs from elderly Waitau women in Hong Kong’s New Territories since 2017.
In Fruit Song 生果文, Chan takes a lament that uses fruit metaphors to describe the bride’s pain. The installation comprises two large silk paintings, backstrap loom weaving, and multi-channel sound. Chan transcribes the lyrics onto silk through brushwork, calligraphy and embroidery. Sonically, Chan turns the lament into an electronic composition using vocal manipulation, field-recordings and conversation fragments with her elders. Through these imperfect acts of translation, Fruit Song 生果文 explores themes of loss, rebirth and matrilineal knowledge. By reimagining the lament in a contemporary manner, Chan illuminates the diasporic psycheof connection/disconnection. More importantly, her research and practice keeps the dying oral tradition of bridal laments significant to a modern world.
Fruit Song 生果文 was a finalist in the 2022 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship, presented by Artspace, Create NSW and NAS. It is Chan's first work to be acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.