Where will be WKCDA’s first community project? Yau Ma Tei, no doubt!

exhibitionIt must have been  like this in the 60s. “Many Beauties in Hong Kong” were the songs heard on the street. Residents shared a salted fish during Typhoon Wanda. And people were, still are, making their livings through fortune-telling (or “Face Look” – look at your face and tell your fortune, unlike “Facebook”.)

Welcome to the inauguration of Yau Ma Tei Cultural Celebration project! On June 28th, a reminiscent of those scenes at Yaumatei landmark “Banyan Tree” was played in Mido Café with Wan Kwong, the Prince of Temple Street, singing in front of 60 excited guests, residents, students and reporters. His performance was followed by a humorous sit-com by Horizonte whose frequent reference to the 60s (such as Chief Robinson) won rounds of applause among the senior generations.

That marked the first community sponsorship project of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority with Hulu Culture, a non-profit organization dedicates to promoting local culture, arts and creativity through a series of projects in the next seven months.

“West Kowloon is not an island of its own, or it is not like a space ship suddenly landing in a new reclaimed land,” said Louis Yu Kwok-lit, Executive Director of Performing Arts.

“In the next few years when we are in a planning and development stage, we hope we could connect with different districts in Hong Kong. Our starting point is Yau Ma Tei.”

To that, Dr Lars Nittve, M+ Executive Director, concurred, “Yau Ma Tei is our closest neighbor. No museum or cultural institutions can really survive if it feels like landing from the moon. It has to be part of the community.”

exhibitionChairman of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council, Edmund Chung Kong-mo, who is also a board member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, noted Yau Ma Tei still kept many distinctive community cultures and commercial features that were prevalent during the 60s and 70s. He was glad that WKCDA had started to support and nurture cultural and artistic talents while developing audiences at the same time.

From July 2011 to January 2012, the Yau Ma Tei Cultural Celebration Project aspires to encourage community participation, arts interaction and education through a series of visual culture research, community arts creation, exhibitions and performance projects.

In the "Community Art Creativity Project," artists, secondary school and university students would seek inspiration from community culture and life experience in Yau Ma Tei. They would gain learning experience and then conduct visual and performing arts exchanges, with residents invited to join in the creation. The created works will be displayed or performed in the exhibition.

“Residents are the owners of the community,” Ms. Iman Fok, Executive Director of Hulu Culture, said, "Numerous old tenement buildings, historic sites and traditional arts and crafts are preserved in Yau Ma Tei - such as Reclamation Street, Temple Street and the Jade Market - and all these attract many visitors, generate liveliness and energy in the community. The "Banyan Tree" remains the relaxation area where people make their living through fortune-telling, singing and street stalls. This is where the Hong Kong grassroots culture originates and assembles.”

Her husband Simon Go, also founder of Hulu, has high hopes on West Kowloon Cultural District because he envisages it to be not just a landmark but also a whole brand new identity.

exhibition“We were, and still are, losing our identity since 1997,” said  Go. “We must rebuild our confidence in arts and culture.”

 To rebuild, community definitely plays a big role. That is also what M+ director Dr Lars Nittve learnt in his colourful museum career, leading Tate Modern and Moderna Museet, the national museum for modern art in his home country Sweden.

Dr Nittve told the audience in his mother tongue, which translated into” Community is very important. Art is very important. The fusion of both is perfect.”

Louis Yu concluded, “Whatever languages we speak, community is very important to peoples’ lives and very important to art development.”