Charlie King, Chinese Music, and Media Representation in a New Zealand Gold Mining Setting


Charlie King (Li Kee Hing), as he was known, spent most of his life in the southern New Zealand gold-mining settlement of Waikaia. Arriving there in the mid 1870s, he was one of many Chinese miners in New Zealand, and he worked closely with other miners from his village in China who had also travelled to New Zealand. Unlike many Chinese who eventually returned to China, Charlie King remained in New Zealand. Parts of his life story are remembered at the Switzers Museum in Waikaia, and he is particularly remembered for performing Chinese music as entertainment for locals. While some objects of material culture from the gold-mining era are displayed in the museum, Charlie King is also celebrated as a personality through image and text. These media representations display a historical narrative about his life, and feature a photograph of him playing a Chinese musical instrument. This paper explores Charlie King and Chinese music as it is represented through media – both representation through historical newspaper reports and through the media imagery found in the Switzers Museum display. Drawing on literature from the fields of migration studies, museology, musical biography, and cultural representation, this new research examines not only the sounds of the past through social history and media texts, but also ideas of difference, which in the case of this particular Chinese miner were negotiated in the colonial New Zealand setting through cultural identity and sound.

Author Information
Henry Johnson, University of Otago, New Zealand

Paper Information
Conference: BAMC2020
Stream: Ethnicity

This paper is part of the BAMC2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Johnson H. (2020) Charlie King, Chinese Music, and Media Representation in a New Zealand Gold Mining Setting ISSN: 2435-9475 – The Barcelona Conference on Arts, Media & Culture 2020: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon