The hundreds of Diaolou in southern Guangdong are western-influenced and often flamboyant defensive houses and towers, an unexpected sight amongst the paddy fields and modest villages of this rural area. The late 19th century had seen a series of tribal wars between two local groups, the Hakka and the Punti, and banditry became rife. The Diaolou were built as protection although, given the degree of architectural variation, some were clearly far more than purely functional, marking out those behind them as men of culture and wealth.
They were funded and inspired by locals who had gone abroad to work in the 19th and early 20th centuries, often in gold mining and on railways in America and Australia, and who had done well. Members of the Chinese diaspora trace their roots to most parts of China, but the small area of southern China that this talk will concentrate on played a disproportionately large role in that migration from the mid-19th century onward, and as a result, unusually large amounts of money were remitted back to home villages. We will also look at some of the stories of the emigrés themselves, sometimes shocking and often poignant.
Kirsty Norman trained as a conservator at the British Museum, and worked for many years in Turkey, the Arabian Gulf and Hong Kong, in museums, antiquities departments, and on archaeological sites. Her principal role during that period was as Head of Conservation for the national collection of Islamic art in Kuwait, where she spent 3-4 months of the year for 16 years. In this role she went to Baghdad in 1991, as part of the UN team charged with the recovery of Kuwait National Museum, looted during the 1st Gulf War. In 2004-6 she took a change of direction via a Masters in heritage management at UCL, and subsequently became Head of Site Management and Interpretation at the Centre for Applied Archaeology at UCL, and an external lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology in heritage philosophy and management. She is now retired – at least, from paid work – and is carrying out research in the Public Records Office in Hong Kong into her father’s career there (1941-1968) as a penal reformer, and the social and political background within which he worked.
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