One of Jeanette Kong’s most vivid childhood memories is of her father’s balance book. He was a Chinese shop owner in a village near Kingston, Jamaica, and had a book to mark down what his customers owed. If a customer didn't have money upfront, it wasn't a problem; they could pay for it later. For Kong, growing up in a Jamaican “Chiney Shop” was full of memories like this one -- of the trust between the locals and her father.
“Chiney Shop” was the common name for the Chinese-owned shops that existed in Jamaica between the 1930s and the 1970s. Indentured Chinese labourers hired by the British often stayed in Jamaica after their contracts were up and opened all-purpose stores around the island. These shops sold everything from rice and cornmeal to pots and pans.
Even though Kong can only count on one hand the number of families she socialized with as a young girl, she remembers the close relationship her Hakka Chinese father had with his Jamaican customers.
Kong’s family immigrated to Canada in 1974 and settled in Toronto. Today, Kong works in television and film production. She worked at TVO for more than 13 years on a number of programs, including TVO's book show, “Imprint,” and “Person 2 Person with Paula Todd,” and she recently made the shift to independent filmmaking. Her latest documentary tells the story of Jamaica's Chinese-owned shops, like the one she grew up in.
Jeanette Kong: The Future of the Canadian Documentary Industry
As part of our "Imagining the Future" web-exclusive video series, Jeanette Kong talks about what she thinks the Canadian documentary scene will look like in 20 years.
Watch the complete “Imagining the Future” series.
Photo credit: R. Best.
May we have a moment of your time?
Our public funding only covers some of the cost of producing high-quality, balanced content. We depend on the generosity of people who believe we all should have access to accurate, fair journalism. Caring people just like you!