Hong Kong’s recent history is largely defined by rapid growth, change, and renewal, a sentiment that touches many aspects of life in the city. Whether it’s the sight of new buildings going up every day or just the overall speed of life, Hong Kong is definitely fast-paced. However, that singular narrative does not paint the full picture of its unique past, present, and future. Hong Kong’s true culture is also defined by slower moments and the relationships that are born out of those moments between people and their community. Crucial to that sense of community is the industries and businesses that are unique to Hong Kong, which is a quintessential part of the visual culture of Hong Kong’s history.
‘Love’ of All Occupation Under the Lion Rock is an exhibition organized by Project 72 and PPAC International that seeks to preserve and restore the memories of these important industries: the hair salons, herbal tea shops, shoe-shining booths, rice shops, Cantonese Opera classes, food stalls and more that have defined the city, but are becoming less and less visible. Opening on May 17th and running until June 28th at theDesk Sai Wan, “72 Industries Under Lion Rock Spirit” assembles the work of more than 50 illustrators and comic artists around their interpretations and recreations of 72 industries that define Hong Kong, whether in the present or in their memory. The exhibition features different contemporary Hong Kong artists such as Cuson Lo, Pen So, Jerry Cho Chi Ho, and more, united under the concept of ‘The Spirit of the Lion Rock.’
As Eric Ng describes, one of the organizers of Project 72, “Many old Hong Kong industries have disappeared now, and I hope Project 72 can help bring it back to the city. Our expertise is drawing, so at this moment, we use art and imagery to bring it back, hoping to make a record of history by painting. Project 72 is just a starting point and a trigger, to inspire viewers to think about Hong Kong and hopefully to connect with their own stories.”
Change is inevitable, which places the utmost importance on the role of preservation. Through the use of brushes and paper, the exhibition empowers artists to restore and relive memories of Hong Kong from their childhood. Moments such as waiting for a haircut at a hair salon in a small back alley, reading comics while parents read the newspaper at a local tea shop, or going to a camera and photo studio to pose for a portrait with your entire family. While many old industries are disappearing, they need not be forgotten. Project 72 is helping to record a cultural history of industry in Hong Kong through art, one that is changing and diminishing but not forgotten. The end result will hopefully inspire viewers with a renewed sense of commitment to the community around them, and a desire to care for the diverse makeup of the city. Eric Ng further elaborated on the objective, “We born in the 70s, so we witnessed extreme changes in life, society, and the city. Living in the digital era now, we hope to make a difference by preserving these memories through the internet and sharing with our community.”
We asked Project 72 artists to share some of their favorite memories, as well as what this kind of preservation means in Hong Kong. Jerry Cho, “This backstreet barber shops represent my aspiration. It is where I read my first comic book, so I feel compelled to record it.” Pen So, “Creating no hierarchies between cultures, this is the distinctive culture of Hong Kong that resonates among Hong Kongers.” Baak Sui, “Ice cream motorcycles were loved by children, and my friends and I called them ‘happy cycles.’”
This theme speaks to the core value of theDesk: Inclusive Community, and the mission of harnessing the power of community to drive results. Like merchants selling different goods at a traditional marketplace, everyone at theDesk brings with them a unique talent, product or solution with the potential to benefit our communities. Through Project 72 at our Sai Wan space, we want to reinforce our commitment to community, and celebrate the diversity of industries, backgrounds, mindsets, life experiences and talents at theDesk and across Hong Kong. Inclusive Community means we are always finding ways to strengthen the connection and communication between members and neighboring businesses. Eric Ng adds, “Project 72 is a shared project, it takes a group or a community to make it happen, and to create new energy through the combination of people and ideas.”
Why Sai Wan? As a location defined by the mixture of old and modern, the neighborhood is a destination for creatives in Hong Kong, and an ideal spot for hosting a unique and locally relevant exhibition such as Project 72. As Cecilia Chan, Chief Community Engagement Officer at theDesk describes, “theDesk is always looking for ways to bring people and community together. The message of Project 72 is especially relevant at our Sai Wan space, a traditional district that blends old and new elements for a unique local neighborhood feel.” Furthermore, as our first location for theDesk, it inhabits a special place in our own history.
We are thrilled to host this exhibition along with Project 72 and PPAC International, so please join us May 17 – June 28 (Mon – Fri 9.00am – 6.00pm, closed Sat, Sun & Public Holidays except for special open sessions on 25/5, 26/5, 8/6, 9/6, 22/6, 23/6, from 12.00pm – 6.00pm), at theDesk Sai Wan, 511 Queen’s Road West (HKU Station Exit B2). We look forward to seeing you there!
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