Photography in Southeast Asia II
My Name is Ng (2016-17)
Artist: 黃鑽治 Ng Swan Ti (Jakarta)
Artist Talk and Opening: 14 April 2018
Artist Workshop: 15 April 2018
Venue: Lumenvisum, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC), Hong Kong
Exhibition Dates: 14 April to 27 May 2018
Curated by 莊吳斌 Zhuang Wubin
We could not choose from whose womb we were brought to life. I was born in Indonesia to Sie Soe Hwa (施秀華 / b. 1931), my mother from Pasuruan, East Java, and Oei Lian Teng (黃連登 / 1914-1979), my father from Jinjiang (晉江), Quanzhou, China. Even though I am classified as a Chinese, growing up in Java brought Javanese beliefs and traditions into my breath. Living in Indonesia, which required her citizens to follow a religion, I opted to be baptised as a Catholic. In my adulthood, fate would bring me to a matrimonial union with a Javanese Muslim man.
For over 15 years, I have made a living as a photographer. It is a magical profession that has given me the opportunity to witness the world. I have experienced the kindness of strangers and friends, beyond the boundaries of colour and religion. Photography has also facilitated my journey to understand my place in Indonesia.
Before my mother, my father had already married another woman in China. He remarried in Indonesia, giving birth to my elder siblings and me. The two families had never met previously. The connection was also affected by my father’s passing in 1979.
A few years back, my niece (an English teacher) from my half-sister Huang Li Duan (黃麗端) in China suddenly called up my family home at Wajak, Malang, East Java. I guess they were longing to reconnect with us. Since then, our ties have been revived. During the lunar new year of 2016, together with my nephew, I finally visited my father’s ancestral home in Jinjiang and met my half-sister. Together, we also visited Tiananmen and the Great Wall. On the lunar new year of 2017, Li Duan and her daughter paid us a return visit at Malang.
Through this process of discovery, I realise I feel unattached to any culture, religion or ancestry. I don’t belong anywhere but, at the same time, I feel like I belong everywhere. This is a solitary and poignant realisation.
– Ng Swan Ti, Malang, 1 January 2018 / 2018年一月一號，寫於玛琅
Ng Swan Ti (b. 1972, Malang) is a photographer and educator based in Jakarta. She uses her personal work as a process of self-discovery, exploring issues of religion and identity in Indonesia. Her work has been exhibited at DongGang International Photo Festival, Korea (2016), Jakarta Biennale (2015) and Noorderlicht Photo Festival, the Netherlands (2006). In 2014, Ng published her first photobook, titled Illusion.
Ng is an active member of PannaFoto Institute, a non-profit foundation in Indonesia that focuses on photographic education and visual literacy. She also served on the World Press Photo selection committees for the Joop Swart Masterclass (2016) and the 6×6 Global Talent Programme in Southeast Asia and Oceania (2017).
It is relatively uncommon for someone born in Java during Suharto’s New Order (1966-1998) to go by such a Chinese-sounding name, like that of photographer-educator Ng Swan Ti (b. 1972, Malang, East Java), spelt in this manner to render the Hokkien topolect. The name of her father, originally from Jinjiang (晉江) in Quanzhou, China, was written as Oei Lian Teng (黃連登 / 1914-1979), with “Oei” being the usual way of transliterating the surname of Huang in Indonesia. Arriving in Java before 1942, Oei passed away as an alien because he kept his Chinese citizenship. After independence, the successive Indonesian governments remained reluctant, for the most part, to see the Chinese enjoy equal status as citizens. Ng only attained her citizenship in 1996, which meant that she was not compelled, like other Chinese, to adopt an Indonesian name. Till today, she does not know why her surname is rendered as “Ng”, which is more common in Malaysia and Singapore. Of course, she has no use for learning to write her name in Chinese characters in Indonesia. It is only when she worked on this project that Ng reacquainted herself with those alien characters.
在蘇哈托的新秩序時代（1966－1998）出生爪哇的華人一般不會象攝影人兼導師Ng Swan Ti（黃鑽治／1972年出生東爪哇的玛琅）那樣使用華裔姓名。就連她姓名的拉丁字母拼寫也有別於一般在爪哇音譯福建話的方法。她的父親黃連登（1914－1979）是泉州晉江人。在印尼，他的姓依據當時的慣例被音譯為Oei。他在1942年之前來到爪哇，最後因為選擇保留自己的中國籍而以外僑身份在印尼過世。獨立後，印尼的各屆政府始終不太願意看到華人平等享有公民權，所以多方刁難。 黃鑽治到了1996年才取得公民權。正因為如此，她無須象其它華人一樣為自己改取另一個印尼文名字。至今，她仍然不知道她的姓為何被譯為Ng，因為這樣的音譯法在新馬比較普遍。當然，她在印尼沒必要學習如何用漢字書寫自己的名字，直到她在拍攝這組照片時才再度認識那幾個陌生的文字。
In her personal work, Ng has always been interested to understand her religious identity within the context of Indonesian Catholicism. In My Surname is Ng (2016-17), she embarks on a related tangent, exploring, for the first time, her ambivalence towards her Chinese-ness. The impetus for this work came unexpectedly when the two families that Oei had left behind—one in Jinjiang, the other in Malang—decided to re-establish contact. When her nephew decided to visit Oei’s ancestral village during the lunar new year of 2016, Ng decided to tag along. Her half-sister from Jinjiang made a return visit to Malang on the following year. During the two visits, members from the two families finally met for the first time.
On one level, the photographs in this project document the two family gatherings that Ng participated. Through the making of this work, Ng traces her father’s sojourn and experiences how the shifting politics of Indonesia and China had impacted his life. Dreamy images of the volcano and blue seas hint at the imaginary space between different lands and cultures, which she finds herself in. Growing up in Wajak, a semi-urban village some 35km away from Malang town, she fuelled her imagination through her reading habit. Photography has allowed her to experience the world. Ng writes, in her artist statement: “I don’t belong anywhere but, at the same time, I feel like I belong everywhere.” As someone from the middle class, this is not a statement of privilege. It articulates the complexity of a person’s identity and her desire to fully engage the world beyond parochialism.
Zhuang Wubin / 莊吳斌
You can download the brochure of this exhibition here.