Dutch-Chinese-Malaysian Artist, Yin Yin Wong Presents ‘Letters from Lalalam’

Dutch artist Yin Yin Wong’s first solo exhibition in Malaysia encourages us to delve into the lives and daily experiences that underpin the Asian service industry.

Yin Yin Wong

Art has a profound ability to evoke emotions, stimulate thought, and leave a lasting impact on individuals. From paintings to any other form of artistic expression, they can resonate with people in a deeply personal way. At a recent showcase at Wei-Ling Gallery, the artwork featured by multi-disciplinary Dutch-Chinese-Malaysian artist Yin Yin Wong left plenty of food for thought.

In 1977, Wong’s parents immigrated from Malaysia to the Netherlands in search of a better life. They opened a restaurant named ‘Choong Kee [松 记],’ which operated for over a decade, serving the local community. Wong’s mother continues to work in the service industry, while Wong’s father became estranged after the restaurant closed.

Holaan Travel Service | This lightbox plays with the words ‘Holaan’ and ‘Lotus’, which both start with the character ‘Hé (荷)’.

Wong, who grew up in the family’s business, observed the physically demanding and grueling work undertaken by their parents, which often goes unnoticed and unappreciated in Dutch society. They use their work to delve into the theme of marginalisation experienced by the South-East Asian diaspora, particularly through services like restaurants, massage parlors, sex work, nail salons, and more in Western public spaces. Their exploration questions the significance of commercialising one’s own culture for the consumption of others.

Yin Yin Wong

Lotus Flowers | A short film Wong asks their mother to teach them how to fold the lotus flower napkins that they used to have on their restaurant table setting.

“You can’t pick a lotus flower when you see them in the wild. Lotuses grow near quicksand– if you pick it you could get stuck and drown if no one rescues you.” – Jenny Tong, Lotus Flowers (2022)

‘Letters from Lalalam,’ is derived from how the Chinese diaspora in the Netherlands informally pronounce ‘Rotterdam.’ Wong, who resides in the city in Netherlands, explores the challenges faced by the largest population of East and South-East Asian immigrants in the Netherlands through a new series of sculptures inspired by the visual language of shop fronts and the diverse use of language. These artworks, combined with their recent pieces, encourage viewers to connect with the personal stories that underpin the economic and cultural fabric of the Netherlands, all while navigating the evolving aspects of their cultural and social identities at the fringes.

This intriguing exhibition appears to offer a unique perspective on the Asian service industry, focusing on the lives and everyday realities of those who support it. Wong’s approach seems to be a blend of art and social commentary, shedding light on the often overlooked aspects of service work in Asia.

Yin Yin Wong

Remembering Pinetrees

The first signs that Wong learned how to read were the characters that adorned the facade of the restaurant they grew up in ‘松记’.

Yin Yin Wong


From late 2021 to early 2023, Wong aimed to make a self portrait every day. They made over 300 self-portraits in this time. The selection of twenty-four drawings shown are the first to ever be exhibited.

Lucky Star

From all the shop facades Wong encounters, the shops designating Thai or Chinese Massage are the most confronting. Shops of which the blinds are more often than not closed– words bold and direct in red or black. More often than not, the shop signs are the worst maintained; letters peeling, neon lights flickering– they are places Wong has never seen the inside of, knowing that many of them are places offering illegal sex work.

Lucky Star (Front)

The labour of physically servicing another’s body in order to survive is the stark reality of many South-East Asian women in the Dutch diaspora.

Yin Yin Wong


A traditional lion dance for good luck and the casting away of bad spirits was performed during the opening of Wong’s family restaurant on the 18th of September, 1994 in Nijmegen. ‘Exit’, combines the mythical lion and its silent roar with the banality of an exit sign, a safety requirement for all establishments in the Netherlands.


Abbreviations such as ‘Kant.’, ‘Chin.’, ‘Spec.’ and ‘Rest.’ are commonly found in restaurant signage in the Netherlands.

“Letters from Lalalam” is now on display until Friday, October 13 at Wei-Ling Gallery on Jalan Scott, Brickfields.

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