Chinese ladies drum up help from the Otago Freemasons’ Charity
Cruise ship passengers, tourists and any passers-by who ventured near Dunedin’s renowned Chinese Gardens on a sunny Saturday morning were suprised to see a colourful, musical event on show as the ladies of the Dunedin Chinese Association put on a dazzling display of dance and yao gu (waist drums) as they practised for forthcoming events in the city.
When they contacted the Otago Freemasons’ Charity (OFC), the Chinese Ladies Association were in the process of raising funds for urgently needed replacement costumes and drums to enable them to continue to practise and perform their ancient art. Although, as they told us, they did not think that they would be considered, they applied to the OFC for financial assistance for the new equipment and within eight short weeks their wish had been granted.
Dunedin, and indeed New Zealand as a whole, has had a long association with Chinese immigrants since the gold rushes of the mid-eighteen hundreds, when thousands of Chinese poured into the country to work the gold fields. With them they brought their very strong, ancient culture, and this has been influential in the region ever since. A multi-ethnic organisation like the Freemasons could not fail to acquiesce to a plea for help from people from such a background and, as should be expected, the Otago Freemasons’ Charity was there when called upon.
The Chinese ladies grant formed part of the Trust’s annual funding of worthy causes within the Otago Region. With their grant the Chinese Ladies Association purchased a suite of colourful costumes, waist drums, a computer and several other articles. Although the items purchased might be marked ‘Made in China’, one could not really argue that, in the circumstances, this was not totally appropriate. In the past the ladies have not been able to perform in Dunedin’s delightful Santa Parade (A charming colourful event focused mainly on young families and children.), but now with the OFC’s help, they can and their first ever appearance happened in December. Needless to say they are also in the line-up for the Chinese New Year celebrations in February.
The Dunedin Chinese Association has long wanted to become even more integrated within its local community and, since receiving the grant from the OFC, the Association has been able to display its art at the recent ‘Celebration of Culture’ and also during the ‘Moon Festival’. Association representative Ji Ying Xue said, “the ladies are delighted with the Trust’s [OFC’s] support” and added “our Association could have done little without the Trust’s assistance.”
On the day, the troupe performed flawlessly for our photographs; though it might conceivably be argued that the arrival of news reporter David Loughrey and nationally known photographer Peter McIntosh, from the New Zealand newspaper The Otago Daily Times may also have helped spur them on!
About the Otago Freemasons’ Charity
New Zealand is unique in having the four main Masonic constitutions, namely the Irish, English, Scottish and, of course, the New Zealand Constitutions encompassed by its’ shores. In April 1958 the four constitutions gathered to discuss the possibility of establishing “a home for the aged” in the City of Dunedin. A committee was formed and the following month they founded ‘The Southern Masonic Association’, which was launched formally in the presence of 200 Freemasons, in September 1958 at the Moray Place Masonic Lodge Rooms, 44 individual Lodges being represented. This Association became the charitable arm of Freemasonry in the province of Otago. It was in 1976 that the name was changed to the now more familiar, Otago Freemasons’ Charity (OFC).
The main body of the OFC, also has under its wing The Boock Estate Trust, The Port Chalmers Marine Lodge Bursary Fund, and The Fred Staub Memorial Trust. The latter, created quite recently in 2013, focuses on the Arts. Financially the Trust is extremely sound, thanks in no small due, to the outstanding skills of its Fund Manager, Rt.W.Bro. Les Green. A mere one percent of its income is spent on administration. The OFC helps deserving causes throughout the Otago region. Its grants are made annually, and applications to the Trust must be in BEFORE the end of February each year.
Application forms can be obtained from:
The Secretary, The Otago Freemasons’ Charity, PO Box 5740, Dunedin, Otago.
Email: [email protected]