Rozana Lee was born in Aceh, Indonesia, a country with over three hundred ethnic groups and dialects, fourth generation of Chinese migrant descent. Growing up in Indonesia, her childhood was filled with accounts of racial and religious tensions. In 1998, following anti-Chinese violence in the form of rioting, robbing, raping, and killing, she left Indonesia and immigrated to Singapore where she met my husband, a European New Zealander and their two boys were born there. In 2004, the Boxing Day Tsunami hit Lee's parental hometown and killed over 170,000 of its residents. Her mother was one of them. This prompted her to re-evaluate her life and in 2009, she gave up her 15 years banking career. After a year living in Suzhou, China, Lee immigrated permanently to Aotearoa New Zealand following her young family in 2010. Reviving her passion for art, she decided to pursue her second degree in Fine Arts.
Drawing from her family's history of multi-generational migrations and displacement, and taking cues from cultural critic Edward Said’s discussion of ‘connections between things’ and ‘contrapuntal’ relations, Lee seeks different rhythms, contours, and experiences as coexisting, sympathetic, and reconfigured. She is interested in creating a contemplative space where cultural dynamism can be felt as togetherness or belonging, without being grounded in homogeneity. Working across painting, moving image and textile, Lee explores distinctive cultural spaces and the life of particular communities that allow for something shared, both within and beyond existing national and geographic boundaries.
Using a Tjanting, the traditional Indonesian Batik making tool for applying hot wax on fabric, Lee draws patterns she is associated with; they tell stories of her navigation across and between cultures. Each repetition contains small differences and displacements. By leaving the wax on the fabric, rather than boiling it off, she is deliberately fabricating a language of non-integration and incompleteness. This change in the process points to a temporarily of the 'in-between' condition that is experienced by all displaced people. This in-between condition allows "newness to come into the world."
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