South Africa: Exhibition Tells the Story of the Hong Family, Brixton's 166 Caroline Street and a Slice of Chinese-South African History

analysis

The Chinese immigrant Hong family ran the Caroline Supply Store in Brixton, Johannesburg for 56 years - 166 Caroline Street is the historic site of an exhibition titled 'Behind that Window', co-curated by Tamzyn Botha and Sally Gaule.

The exhibition pays poignant homage to the family and is punctuated by original artefacts such as handwritten till slips, family photographs and a little tin box used as a "cash register". Walking into the exhibition, one is greeted by the smell of incense permeating throughout the space and accompanied by traditional Chinese music in the background.

In her opening address, Chinese historian and author Dianne Leong Man foregrounded the conditions under which Chinese people emigrated from China in the 1900s as a result of war and famine, which forced people to seek refuge in countries around the world.

She said most immigrants to South Africa were from the region of Guangdong, spoke Cantonese and Hakka and moved to another country by using the chain immigration system - where family members of a former villager would go ahead and then assist others from their family ...

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