Where do we come from? WHO do we come from? Our family history can give us our identity, shape how we view ourselves and our place in the world.
I am so grateful to my 13 year old self. Because in 1976, I asked my Grandpa to tell me about our family history and I recorded it on a tape recorder. In that recording, he tells the story of how his grand-father, my great-great grandfather, came to Malaya (now Malaysia) from China. He died the following year. It is the only family recording we have of Grandpa’s voice and it is the official account of the story of our family (on my mother’s side).
You can listen to the recording via the player below. (The recording was first published on my previous blog Fusion View)
My Grandpa carrying me
In addition to this recording I have recordings of my Grandma and also reams of notes of stories and conversations with other aged relations, collected over time.
Now I am 51+ – about the same age as my Grandpa was in the photo above. My fascination with my family heritage has led me to create Bound Feet Blues, the story performance. I am also writing a book telling the Stories Behind the Story of the show – which will include the story about the Bandit Boy that Grandpa refers to in the recording. Not only has my interest in my family history sparked my creativity, it has also given me a sense of who I am and my place in the world.
Audiences for Bound Feet Blues seem fascinated by the family stories portrayed in the show – and I think this is as much because it prompts them to reflect on their own family and their relationship with their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents as it is to do with any particular interest in the specifics of my family. Many people have said to me that they wish they knew more about their own family history.
If you are interested in your family history, Continue reading
We went to the The Institute of Sexology | Wellcome Collection exhibition just before Xmas. It is a fascinating history of the study of human sexuality and includes a number of artefacts from China showing women with bound feet. I blogged a few days ago about an ivory carving showing a Chinese couple making love which is on show at the exhibiton.
Catch it if you can before Sept 2015. Here is the blurb and also the promotional video:
” ‘The Institute of Sexology’ tells the complex and often contradictory story of the study of sex through Continue reading
In this video, a 90+ year old Chinese lady in Malaysia is interviewed, talking about her experience of having her feet bound.
The practice of footbinding did not take place in Malaysia but many women who had had their feet bound as childre migrated to Malaya (as Malaysia used to be called before independence from British rule) in later life.
On this wet Sunday afternoon, I am feeling very sorry for myself – laid up with a cold – but I am distracting myself by researching the history of the the cheongsam for Bound Feet Blues, The Book.
What I am learning is that clothing has national and political significance. The cheongsam originated with Manchu rule in China when the Manchurians from the North East overthrew the Ming Dynasty in 1644. They required all men to wear their hair in a plait – known as a queue – and everyone had to wear clothing in the Manchu style: with the high collar and side buttons. Those who defied this requirement could be punished by death. It was a way of dominating the Continue reading
I’ve made a start on the book version of Bound Feet Blues and I’m pleased to say I have the first 5,153 words.
The script of Bound Feet Blues is only 25 pages and runs to a one hour show. That meant that I had to edit down the stories and simplify it all in order to create a story that works as an oral story and a theatre piece. The book will tell “The Stories Behind The Story”, expanding on and deepening the stories that are in the show.
The book will be framed by the scratch night performance that I tried out at Conway Hall in March this year. This was my first attempt at presenting the piece to a live audience and was made up of 45 minutes of a rough draft of the incomplete material. The book will follow my journey as a writer and performer trying to develop the memoir that would eventually become Bound Feet Blues, the show, alongside the journey of the actual story within the show.
Why this structure?
Well, I tried for many years to write the stories of my family, my heritage and my own personal life as a conventional memoir and that did not work. Bound Feet Blues works because it is a live dramatised story performance. So I want to honour the oral storytelling out of which the show evolved by writing a book that is an UNconventional memoir and that has the feel of Continue reading
I am very excited to share with you the new cover for Mindgame, my second novel and the first – and only – Malaysian lesbian thriller!
The cover is designed by Monsoon Books for the new ebook version that they will be bringing out shortly. It depicts the dark themes of the book quite well, I think:
# the mind manipulation is suggested by the dark swirling cloud to the young woman’s right
# the dream-like, hallucinations bubble up around her, partly light, partly dark
# behind all that, there is an ominous Continue reading
I was a great fan of The Avengers when I was a child.
I’d never seen a woman as feisty as Emma Peel before – and it opened up my mind to what a woman could be! Here she is in her famous catsuit and knee high boots…
Wow, or what?
But at that time, I was a tomboy and did not Continue reading
How does a woman with bound feet “run away” from her family?
This is the question that has haunted me ever since I was a child when I heard the story of my great-grandmother who had bound feet.
Here is the story that has been passed down in my family, which I pieced together from different family members:
Great-grandfather was a hospital orderly in Taiping (a small town in Perak in Malaysia) when he came across a young woman with bound feet who Continue reading
It’s difficult for us in the modern world to imagine how small bound feet were. Whenever I say to people that some of the smallest bound feet were only 3 inches long, they register that that is small but it’s only when they see exactly how small 3 inches is, that the horror of it hits them.
In order to illustrate how tiny bound feet were for “Breaking Tradition”, my award-winning talk inspired by the stories in Bound Feet Blues, I went online to order a pair of baby shoes. I searched and searched for baby shoes that were 3 inches long but the smallest size that I could find came to just over 4 inches.
The photo above shows me holding those 4+ inch baby shoes during Continue reading
As part of my inquiry what it would like to walk with bound feet for my performance of Bound Feet Blues, I found this video of an elderly Chinese woman with bound feet.
I have been watching it to get a sense of her movement so that it can help me portray the walk of a woman with bound feet in my show.
The main thing that I notice is that she does not Continue reading