Since coming out, becoming an artist, and forging my own path as an adult, I have at times felt my life was at odds with my role as the eldest son of a ChInese family. Sometimes I have felt that taking a step towards becoming myself meant taking a step away from my family. 

I would never have predicted that participating in the TV series Sik Fan Lah!, that examines modern NZ-Chinese life through food, with my dad, would bring me closer to my family and my culture and Aotearoa, playwright Nathan Joe writes. 

Christchurch, my hometown, and where my episode takes place, was a perfect breeding ground for these feelings of displacement. These feelings of not living up to ideas of Kiwi-ness, Chinese-ness, Eldest Son-ness. I left in 2011 to grow up, to run away, to do all the things a young queer kid from Christchurch inevitably craves. 

If you had told me a TV series over a decade later would be part of this healing and reconciliation, I wouldn’t have believed you. 

But Sik Fan Lah! isn’t just any ordinary TV series, it’s a moment in Chinese-New Zealand history. A chapter in which a community achieves a sense of further belonging, or at least solidarity.

Sik Fan Lah! invites audiences in to listen to the things we cannot always say to each other. The things that feel too culturally specific, too nuanced. 

More unexpectedly, Sik Fan Lah! invites parents and children to say the things they aren’t always able to say to each other. 

My episode features myself, but more importantly it features my dad. 

Filming the series was fascinating because I needed to ask my parents - particularly my father - to be involved directly with my creative life for once. The series became an unexpected bridge for us to continue forging our sometimes uneasy, but always loving, relationship.

But knowing and trusting the crew to bridge that gap between us might not have been so easy in most cases. I don’t think anyone other than director Jack Woon could have opened up my dad. These two Chinese-New Zealand men with stoical ways of being. Someone whose own experiences we could see reflected in ours.

This participation didn’t directly involve him and I talking. That turned out to be for the better. There are things we are not quite ready to say. Things that we fear saying. 

Our Chinese parents are often proud of us in ways they cannot say. Especially to us. 

Themes emerged from my episode quite naturally. It’s no surprise the themes of my episode are the themes of my life: family, home, belonging, change. 

As my dad and I continue to get better at talking, at understanding the limits and edges of our understanding of each other, I am thankful we have been given permission to say the unsayable. And our community has been given a platform to share its soul. 

The Asian community isn't a monolith, the Chinese community isn’t a monolith, the Chinese-Kiwi community isn’t a monolith. These are easy enough statements to make, but to express and understand them requires a level of cultural understanding most people are not equipped with. That most people are not given access to understanding. 

So, in a time where it seems most communities and society is becoming further and further atomised from one another, Sik Fan Lah! feels like an antidote. 

At the launch party I was stunned by all the people around me, and realised I had never seen this side of my community on screen in Aotearoa before. 

If representation matters, then Sik Fan Lah! isn’t just a TV series, it's a cultural moment. 

Sik Fan Lah! On Re: News and streaming now on TVNZ+.

Made with the support of NZ On Air

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