The little dark secret

I am on a journey where I continually questioning my identity as Asian Australian. As a story collector, I come across many interesting and dark stories. Once, I found a racial secret underneath a 1950s timber chair. The label read:

European Labour only.

The secret was a niggling thought stuck inside my head and wanted to burst out

Here are a few underlying tidbits about the little known stamp:

  • The stamp was made during the White Australia Policy era
  • The stamp represented ‘who’ it was made for
  • Certain groups was encouraged to buy from their own kind
  • The Europeans at the time failed to recognised that they were fair dinkum Aussies. They still considered themselves as Europeans
  • They also felt threatened by the cheap and affordable furniture made by the Chinese furniture makers.

The more I share the story of the stamp, the more I realise that so few knew about this little dark secret.

I then met a European immigrant who also discovered the furniture stamp when he first arrived in Australia. He laughingly shared his confusion, and pointed out that the furniture was not made in Europe but manufactured locally.

The racial stamp is translated into a positive experience. The label has been redesigned to better reflect who we are today. We are a culturally diverse society. With the help of my furniture maker, Max Atkins, we handmade two chairs. Made out of Australian recycled timber, two colours have been emphasized, one yellow and the other white. Also hidden underneath the hinged seats are new labels showcasing the past and present stories. The Two Chairs plans to be a platform to collect and discuss race and racism in Australia.

The Two Chairs, as aptly named, is now being displayed in the Melbourne Fringe Furniture festival till October 6. They will also be a part of The Big West Festival in Footscray, where we plan to cross creative boundaries and place the chairs in a Footscray café called Happy River and allow people to sit and share their thought and stories.

Are you free during 27-29 November 2013. Are you interested in participating? Get in touch and email us at



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