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The novice, fry and fledging 我全未曉 

Rainbow Chan 陳雋然

Presented by Arts House

Monday 6 – Friday 24 May 2024
Mon – Fri, 10am – 5pm


Arts House 
North Melbourne Town Hall 
521 Queensberry St, 
North Melbourne 

Assistance Animal
Companion Card
Quiet Space Available
Visual Rating 75%
Wheelchair Accessible

An installation of silk paintings and sound composition by Rainbow Chan 陳雋然 accompanying The Bridal Lament, free to view in Arts House foyer.

The novice, fry and fledging 我全未 expands on Rainbow Chan’s 陳雋然 preservation and reinterpretation of the bridal lament – a bygone Weitou ritual where brides sung of their grief, sorrow and fear before their arranged marriages. 

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.  

The subjects of Chan’s three silk paintings capture the apprehension of brides on the cusp of losing freedom and identity, while her multi-channel sound arrangement blends the traditional with the contemporary.

Rainbow Chan 陳雋然 will be performing The Bridal Lament Wednesday 8 – Sunday 19 May 2024. 


About the artist

Rainbow Chan is an award-winning vocalist, music producer and multi-disciplinary visual artist. Both heartbreaking and tender, her idiosyncratic brand of pop reflects diasporic experiences and deeply personal tales of love and loss. In 2022, Chan was recognised in the "40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian Australians Award" for her contribution to arts and culture. She won "Artist of the Year" in the 2022 FBi SMAC Awards. Her critically-acclaimed song cycle, The Bridal Lament, explores her Weitou cultural heritage through the lens of an obsolete premarital ritual.

Chan’s highly anticipated EP Stanley was released on UK label, Eastern Margins (2021). Her sophomore record Pillar (Independent, 2019) was feature album on community radio stations nationwide and was nominated for the Australian Music Prize. Her debut record Spacings (Silo Arts & Records, 2016) was nominated for FBi SMAC Record of the Year and AIR Best Dance/Electronica Album, with its single Nest being FBi Radio's most played song that year. Lifted from the EP Fabrica (Healthy Tapes, 2017), her single Let Me won the FBi SMAC Award for Best Song.

Chan has performed at renowned venues and festivals including Sydney Opera House, Vivid, MONA FOMA, Gallery of Modern Art, Melbourne Music Week, Iceland Airwaves, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and Tai Kwun (Hong Kong). She has exhibited with Firstdraft Gallery, Artspace, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, University of Queensland Art Museum, Blindside Gallery and I-Project Space, Beijing. Songs from a Walled Village, her documentary for ABC Radio National, was a finalist in the 2021 Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Prizes. Chan was a finalist in the 2021/22 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship (Artspace, Create NSW and NAS) and her exhibited work Fruit Song was subsequently acquired by Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Artist statement

‘哭嫁 or ‘bridal laments’ refer to a marital mourning ritual of the 圍頭 (Waitau/Weitou) people, the first settlers of Hong Kong. To Waitau women, arranged marriages signified a kind of death. Upon marriage, a bride’s ties to home were severed and she would remain an outsider to the groom’s family. The bride-to-be would perform a lament cycle which involved singing and weeping in front of loved ones for three days.

I have Waitau ancestry through my mother who never learnt the laments as the oral tradition faded in the 1960s. With the help of my mother as translator, I have relearned these traditional songs from elderly Waitau women in Hong Kong’s New Territories since 2017.

The novice, fry and fledging 我全未曉  reimagines a traditional lament that uses fish and bird metaphors to describe the bride’s pain. The installation comprises three large silk paintings, backstrap loom weaving, and multi-channel sound. I transcribe the lament lyrics onto silk through brushwork, calligraphy and embroidery. Sonically, the lament is reworked into an electronic composition using vocal manipulation, field-recordings and conversation fragments with Weitou elders. Through these imperfect acts of translation, The novice, fry and fledging 我全未曉  explores themes of loss, rebirth and matrilineal knowledge. By reframing the lament in a contemporary manner, my work illuminates the diasporic psyche of connection/disconnection to the idea of home. More importantly, I hope my research and practice keeps the dying oral tradition of bridal laments significant to a modern world.’

- Rainbow Chan

Artistic credits

Artist: Rainbow Chan 陳雋然

Image credit:Louis Lim

Image description: Three large silk paintings hang in a gallery space. Each is in portrait orientation – the subject of the first is a fish, the second birds and the third a person.