One's a writer, film-reviewer, occasional actor and former public servant, whose memoir, Being Chinese: A New Zealander's Story is on the 2017 Ockham Book Awards long list; the other's a graphic artist and novelist known and noted for his work on the TV series bro' Town and the comic The Dharma Punks.

Helene Wong and Ant Sang have disparate backgrounds but they've joined forces to write and illustrate The Quiet Achievers: From gardens to gold medals. It's a series of comic pages, which will be turned into a graphic novel, and part of the Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A photographic journey exhibition at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Exhibition organisers decided last year that they wanted contemporary artworks, with a strong Auckland theme, to complement the photographs in the main show.

Once they'd figured out how to approach the project, Wong and Sang devised seven categories (food, business, sport, science, arts, community and war) that they wanted to delve into and Wong found people from each to interview.


The first-time collaborators started researching together, with Sang going to the initial interviews, saying it gave him a better understanding of the stories that were being told to translate into drawings.

The biggest challenge was deciding what to leave out and being specific as they weren't trying to tell the whole history of the Chinese in Auckland.

"We didn't want to buy into stereotypes; we looked for people who were doing things that you may not expect a Chinese person to be doing," Wong says.

Sang says Tyler Nathan-Wong, playmaker for the NZ women's sevens team, is an apt example.

The resulting comic-book artworks follow a boy and his grandmother as they take a tour of contemporary Auckland and meet some of these fascinating figures.