Saturday, March 05, 2011

New home for historic Chinese carving

A carved photo frame of a Chinese nativity scene, found beneath floorboards, has been given a new home more than six decades later.

Frank Tuckerman, 81, donated the carving to the Marlborough Museum last week after storing it carefully in his own home since he found it at age 14.

Mr Tuckerman said that during the 1940s his father became sick and regularly used to sit by the fireplace in their Lybster St home, and when he got up he often stood on a creaking floor board.

One Saturday evening, a young Mr Tuckerman overturned the floor board to reveal the painted totara-wood carving.

The carved photo frame was given to Mr Tuckerman's grandfather, Joe Kak, in the late 1870s, by Blenheim carver William Ah Gee to celebrate Mr Kak's Chinese heritage.

Mr Gee was a well-known carver in Marlborough and Wellington during the 1870s and 1880s, as well as one of the earliest Chinese settlers in New Zealand.

Mr Tuckerman's wife Isabel said the couple had "always planned" to give the carving to the museum at some stage.

"Frank thought it was worth keeping," she said.

Museum chief executive Steve Austin said he was "really delighted" to receive the carving and said it would be on display from March.

The carving combined both Christian and Chinese cultures, Mr Austin said.

Mr Austin, who is part-Chinese himself, has also been researching Mr Gee for his nearly-finished book, titled Early Chinese Settlers in New Zealand.

Artist Mr Gee carved many works for shops and churches in Blenheim in the late 1900s, including two white figurines that stood above the old Post Office, and the lectern at St Luke's at Spring Creek.

Mr Tuckerman said he wanted to give the carving to the museum to preserve it and give it a good home.

If anyone has any information about Mr Gee, please contact Mr Austin on 5781712.
Ad Feedback

- The Marlborough Express BY CLAIRE CONNELL
Last updated 13:32 22/02/2010

1 comment:

David said...

I'm the proud grandson of William Ah Gee, now living in Sydney Australia, I'm trying to trace my families history back to China. Steve Austin has been very helpful in this quest. I now know our original name is Chung Dai Yee, yet have been unable to find out any more information. if anybody does having any information about William Ah Gee no matter how trivial I would greatly appreciate you sharing it.
regards

David William Gee
dave.w.gee@gmail.com