James Nguyen (NSW)


James Nguyen’s work Portion 53 examines the intersections between First Peoples’, migrant and post-war histories. It contrasts experiences and feelings. In her poem, Nguyễn Thị Kim Dung (James’ mother) expresses gratitude to the Dharawal for her family’s peaceful refuge on their sovereign land. However, this new beginning could only occur through the forced removal of the Dharawal community from their land by colonisers. For each renaming and rezoning of Portion 53 comes a displacement and erasure of the history before.

Inquiry questions and in-gallery strategies

  • Look and listen to the artwork for a moment. What do you hear? What do you see?
  • Who can understand the poem Nguyễn Thị Kim Dung recites?
  • What do you find most interesting about the work? Why?
  • Form groups according to the areas / postcodes of where you live. To which First Peoples' Nations do the lands and waters belong? If you don’t know, how could you find out?
  • James Nguyen collaborated with his mother to create the artwork. What project could you collaborate on with a member of your family?

Creative learning activity

You will need

  • Paper
  • Pencils


  1. To begin, think of two nouns that have opposite meanings. This can be in a language of your choice, for example, Arabic, Auslan, or Vietnamese.
  2. Brainstorm as many words as you can that have to do with each word. Make sure you include adjectives, verbs and other nouns.
  3. Then, write one of your original two nouns as the 1st line of your poem. Note: the remaining noun will become the last line of your poem.
  4. On the 2nd line of your poem, write two adjectives that describe this noun.
  5. On the 3rd line of your poem, write three verbs that relate to this noun.
  6. On the 4th line of your poem, write four nouns. The first two relate to your original noun in the 1st line. The second two will relate to the noun in the last line.
  7. On the 5th line of your poem, repeat step 5, but choose verbs related to your second original noun.
  8. On the 6th line of your poem, repeat step 4 and write two adjectives that relate to your second noun.
  9. Write your original noun as the final line of your poem. See the example below:

    Peaceful, new
    Start, settle, speak
    Family, refuge - bloodlines, ancestors
    Rezoning, renaming, replacing
    Displaced, dispossessed

  10. Perform your poem. Consider what actions and gestures you can use in your performance.



  • Read your poem. What is the overall emotion or tone of your poem?
  • If you could ask someone to perform it with you, who would you ask? Why?