Bits and Bobs from Chuen Lung Villagers: Sharing by Chuen Lung Resident Artist Pak Chai
Through collecting and displaying items and visual traces of specific communities within Hong Kong, CMP reveals the quotidian creativity and vernacular wisdom of that community, making and visually articulating the connections with society at large. Pak Chai has participated in several CMP projects, including Street as Museum: Lee Tung Street (2005) and In Search of Marginalized Wisdom: Sham Shui Po Craftspeople'(2007).
One of Pak Chai’s roles with CMP is studying the transformations of different communities in Hong Kong and portraying these changes through his image-making.
Koon Man Space
HKIPF is converting the vacant site of the former village school in Chuen Lung, Tai Mo Shan, into Koon Man Space, a community-based art and cultural space for the public. Through renovating this 60-year-old site, we hope to draw upon the unique culture and environment of Chuen Lung and extend learning, exchanges, and experimentations on contemporary photography to the rural areas. Work is in progress! We expect to open by mid 2022 and look forward to setting up a base camp for observing, exploring and forging cultural connections with the community, enriching each other’s lives in the process.
Earlier in the year, we invited image makers Ki Wong and Pak Chai to be our artists-in-residence, kickstarting preliminary field research and getting in touch with the residents by kindling conversations through images. Their findings and resultant works will soon be extracted and presented through a series of exhibitions at Koon Man Space.
Ki Wong began her projects at Chuen Lung early this year, including Photo Voice and the collection of cultural artifacts. Since May, she has been distributing cameras to residents of the village, encouraging them to document their daily lives. The idea is to uncover and archive stories and faces of Chuen Lung through a first-person perspective.
As for the collection of artifacts, Ki has been instrumental in organising the lifelong masterworks of the late Chak Wai Leung, a village elder who had lived in Chuen Lung for over three decades and sadly passed away just last month. Uncle Chak humbly called himself an amateur photographer, yet his stacks upon stacks of photos taken in his youth bear witness to the quotidian lives of common Hong Kong people throughout the 1960s–70s. Preserving images of Hong Kong landscapes from when it was still an agricultural and fishing village ahead of urbanisation, the body of work is exceptionally valuable. We will be completing the digitisation and showcasing of Uncle Chak’s photographs in stages, providing fresh vision and energy to such an important documentation.
Bits and Bobs from Chuen Lung Villagers
In anticipation of Koon Man Space, HKIPF invited Pak Chai, a member of the Community Museum Project, to share his experiences of gathering villagers’ stories over the several months. Concerned with the recent transformation of local communities in Hong Kong, Pak Chai uncovers what life was like at the fringes of Tsuen Wan New Town, reflecting on the manifold ways their traditions have amalgamated with contemporary life.
An old man recounted how he built a home with his own hands in the wilderness. A watercress farmer gestured expressively, showing how he held a torch as he harvested on the icy terraces. A village woman encountered a stubborn monkey on her way up the mountain, and ended up squaring up to it. In poorer days, children ran barefoot, paving paths through the hills with their bare feet and bruise-covered buttocks under their jeans. When they got hungry, they grilled insects – a delicacy at the time, and something fun to do. Such was life in a village situated 300m above sea level.
These bits and bobs are mirrors we can use to examine the way we live today.