GWNZ Fellowship, 2020 - 2021

Vera Mey

Vera Mey PhD, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London Thank you so much for this surprising and exciting news! I am shocked and extremely humbled and grateful for the support.

I am currently enrolled in my final year of my PhD in History of Art & Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. I was due to submit in September 2020 however I ruptured my Achilles tendon at the end of February 2020 and with Covid-19 life in London got too difficult and my University decided to close until September 2020 so I came back to New Zealand for more support while writing my thesis. Because of Covid-19 my university granted blanket extensions for submission until April 2021 so I am applying for funds to return to London and finish off my PhD for 6 months starting in the academic year September 2020/2021 as I desperately need some more time in the library with access to University resources.

My PhD looks at regional tendencies of Southeast Asian art during the Cold War eras in Cambodia, Indonesia and Singapore paying particular attention to tensions of modernity and tradition, and intersections of racial plurality within regionalism. The Cold War was an important period of global territorialisation. Art was not merely a tool for beautification but a hammer to shape the way we see the world as Bertolt Brecht would say. During this period, the role of art was used to connect and solidify bonds, as well imagine a brighter more diverse cosmopolitan future.

Prior to my PhD life I worked across New Zealand in Asia as an art curator. After finishing my PhD I will return to curating art to bridge understanding for Asia and New Zealand relations through a unique Asian Pacific cultural perspective.  Being from a working class family with immigrant parents from Cambodia and Indonesia, I believe in the role of culture in giving dignity to diasporic communities.

Read Vera Mey’s Final Report