photo poetry

Jenna Lee & Mackenzie Lee



/ill-lustrous/ photo poetry exchange is a collaborative conversation between Larrakia, Karrajarri and Wardaman sisters Jenna Lee (artist) and Mackenzie Lee (poet) exploring themes of transcultural upbringing, object memory and intergenerational recollection of family history.

The three objects and their responding poems mark the foundation of ongoing research into Asian Australian and Aboriginal histories connected to slavery, blackbirding and underpay in the European Australian pearling industry - while also drawing on personal experiences to celebrate the resulting melding of cultures within Asian Aboriginal families.

Image description: A series of three images split into halves, with a photographic image on the left and a poem on the right.

first image:

Image of a Chinese red silk spool at the centre of the image, it is laying on top of black velvet.
right:Light grey text on solid red background. Title of poem ‘Red Thread’ is printed sideways to the left of the poem.

Poem reads:
Veins through ancestral
Lines, blood
Tired not

second image:

Image of eight vintage mother of pearl shell buttons on a piece of backing card. The card is a piece of cardboard missing a corner, it is laying in the middle of the image on top of black velvet.

right:Dark grey text on solid sand coloured background. Title of poem ‘Pearl Button’ is printed sideways to the left of the poem.

Poem reads:
Drawn close by
Needle, thread
Around my

The word ‘thread’ is printed in the same red of the image above.

third image:

Image of a natural mother of pearl shell laying in the middle of the image on top of black velvet
sand-coloured text on solid dark grey coloured background. Title of poem ‘Pearl Shell’ is printed sideways to the left of the poem.

Poem reads:
Salt-shined vessel,
Smooth face
Edged with

About the artists:

JENNA LEE is a mixed race Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri woman whose contemporary art practice explores the acts of identity/identification, label/labelling and the relationships formed between language, label and object. Being a Queer, Mixed Race, European, Asian (Japanese, Chinese and Filipino), Aboriginal Woman, Lee’s practice is strongly influenced by her overlapping identities, childhood memory as well as maternal teachings of subject, material and process. Recent work explores the transformation of the printed word through the ritualistic acts of destruction and reconstruction, seeking to translate the page into a new tangible language.

        Visit Jenna’s artist page ︎︎︎

MACKENZIE LEE is a queer, multiracial poet currently residing in Ngunnawal country (Canberra, ACT). With strong ties to her Larrakia, Wardaman, and Karajarri heritage, as well as her Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and European ancestry, she uses poetry as a vessel to unite and explore her many cultural identities. Through the use of words and language, she is interested in sharing the kaleidoscope that is her personal identity, as well as exploring the connections within people, land, and society.

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