"The novice, fry and fledging
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan
Born 1990, Hong Kong.
Lives and works in Narrm/Melbourne, Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung Country. Pronouns: she/her
"The novice, fry and fledging 我全未曉" 2023
three silk paintings with backstrap loom weavings, audio file and vinyl
Courtesy of the artist, Narrm/Melbourne.
Vinyl Translation by Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, adapted from “A Glimpse through Ming-Wa-Kou: The Bridal Laments of the Last Walled-Village Brides.”
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is a producer, vocalist, and artist, who actively and lovingly regenerates 圍頭 (Weitou) dialect through a contemporary lens. In union, Chan’s audio, text, and silk paintings reference 哭嫁 (bridal laments), songs performed by women in 圍頭 (Weitou), one of the Indigenous dialects of Hong Kong. 圍頭 (Weitou) is a dialect of Cantonese, spoken for over a millennium by 圍頭 (Weitou) people, the first people of Hong Kong. Chan learnt the 哭嫁 (bridal laments) by spending time in the 圍頭 (Weitou) community with a small group of women in their 80s and 90s, who, before now, were the last to hold the knowledge.
Last practised in the 1960s, the 哭嫁 (bridal laments) were sung during a three-day period before the arranged marriage of a 圍頭 (Weitou) bride to her husband. This marked a rare opportunity where the bride could mourn publicly, expressing grief, sorrow, and fear for the end of their matrilineal identity. The animals who feature in the lyrics of the laments are presented throughout Chan’s silk drawings, representing the feelings and sufferings of the bride (‘catfish, flat-headed, in an unfamiliar place’), as well as reflecting upon the freedom before marriage (unlike ‘Huamei, chirping in the dead of the night’ – a caged bird).
The title The novice, fry and fledging 我全未, alludes to new learning of 圍頭 (Weitou) language for Chun Yin Rainbow Chan – ‘fry’ references a term for young fish species, and ‘fledging’ refers to the new wing feathers of a young bird, making it fit to fly. With humble care and sensitivity to the experiences of family and kin, Chan often performs 圍頭 (Weitou) language in pop songs, extending the significance of these matrilineal songs to supportive community spaces, where people can connect with the songs in new ways.