The Single Object tells the notable story of Chinese heritage types at Wai-te-ata Press

Discover the story of New Zealand’s only surviving collection of Chinese language printing types in the latest episode of a new video series telling powerful stories about objects.

The Chinese heritage type collection at Wai-te-ata Press features in the latest episode of The Single Object, a video series telling powerful stories about objects that have impacted people and shaped our way of life in Aotearoa.

This won’t be the first time The Spinoff and Objectspace – New Zealand’s leading public gallery dedicated to craft, design and architecture – have told these stories, with great success. In their written series of the same name, published on The Spinoff website, objects from throughout New Zealand history were chosen and their cultural impact highlighted through the written word. The story of a metric tonne of Chinese New Zealand history, written by Emma Ng, joined other stories of ordinary objects used in extraordinary circumstances. The written series was read upwards of 60,000 times, and sparked conversations across all platforms about whose history is told and why.

The new video series showcases five notable highlights from the written series. On being featured, Wai-te-ata Press’ Chinese heritage type curator Ya-Wen Ho says ‘we’ve always regarded the type restoration project as a way of amplifying community voices and lesser known stories, and are thrilled for these stories to reach new audiences through The Single Object. If you look at the cultural impact the objects in the series have had, it’s a significant recognition to be included.’

In her accompanying essay, Heavy metal afterlives: A sideways appreciation of the NZ Chinese Growers Type, artist Kerry Ann Lee writes ‘[a]s a taonga that lives up to its namesake, the Growers Journal empowered the post-war Cantonese Chinese community to grow and organise in Aotearoa. […] it also stands as a glorious example of grassroots community publishing and letterpress design.’

For more depth, Ho discusses the history of the Journal and the restoration of the historic types with Lynn Freeman on RNZ's Standing Room Only program:

The four other episodes span the chainsaw taken to the pine tree on One Tree Hill, in protest of the Government's fiscal envelope policy on all historic Treaty claims, pou designed by Māori regional modernist architect John Scott for his buildings, embroidery sharing narratives about the experience of Congolese refugees, to the extraordinary story of how a ballpoint pen was used to protest against the police’s unjust treatment of Pacific people.

The Single Object is directed by Madeleine Chapman and Piata Gardiner-Hoskins and produced by Hex Work Productions (Alice Snedden’s Bad News and the award-winning series Scratched) in association with Objectspace and will air on The Spinoff. The first episode aired on 13 April 2021 and episodes are released on a weekly basis. The Single Object was made with the support of NZ On Air.

Get involved

If the episode has piqued your interest, there are upcoming opportunities to get involved with the heritage type collection. Wai-te-ata Press recently launched a crowd-translation project to translate a series of poems, Wellington Bamboo Branch Songs, and publish a bilingual limited edition using the original metal types. To find out more about upcoming translation workshops, email