Japanese Wongs and Chinese Ohayo

Trio Ohayo was a trio active in France during the thirties. As is obvious from their name, they always presented themselves as a Japanese troupe, and journalists reviewed their acts as such, sometimes commenting that they were successfully mixing old Japanese traditions with modern European athleticism.

However, sometimes, confusion occurred as in this article from Comoedia (March 4, 1933):
Comoedia (Paris. 1907)
Comoedia (Paris. 1907)
Source: gallica.bnf.fr

At the present stage of my research, this is the only mistake I found concerning the Ohayo Trio, and it can easily be attributed to lazy journalism.

Here is a photo of the Trio Ohayo, from a circus program:

One cannot stop noticing that one of the acrobats does have Caucasian features, showing that ethnic or national definitions were fluid in the circus professional milieu and in the spectators gaze.

Let’s turn our attention to the Wongs. They were a family troupe of acrobats active in the thirties in France, and it seems very probable that they were the same circus artists who went to work in North America after the Second world War (see the French version of this blog entry for the evidence). Again, their name and our documentation show that they were Chinese, but, at this stage of our research, for their first appearance in France, they were called « Troupe japonaise Wong » in advertisements posted in newspapers. In this case, no mistake, but a conscious decision by circus managers.

The misrepresentation  seems to have been corrected quickly, but I wonder what came to the minds of the circus manager and the members of the troupe. For the moment I have no answer to my question.

Both anecdotes presented here show how racial, national and ethnic definitions can be transitory and fluid, intentionally or not, for honorable reasons or because of voluntary misrepresentation.


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