Students spurn idealised views in presenting HK at expo

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 June, 2010, 12:00am

Forget idealised pictures of the Central skyline, the Peak vista on a rare clear day, the Big Buddha and the Star Ferry.

Think foam lunchboxes, a public housing estate under demolition, a tenement building and a tree growing on a stone wall in Sheung Wan. These are among the images a group of students chose for presentation to tourists to show them the real Hong Kong in the eyes of young people.

Printed on postcards, the images were handed out to people visiting the city's urban best practice booth at the Shanghai World Expo this week.

'A postcard is a medium of communication. The postcards we always see in shops are about how good the place is. My design is about my expectations,' said Derrick To Ching-hing, an architecture student at the University of Hong Kong.

To, 26, is one of a group selected to staff the booth under a programme named the MAD Shanghai Expo Ambassador x Creative Ecology Tour. MAD stands for 'make a difference'.

Organised by the Institute of Contemporary Culture under CreatHK sponsorship, the ambassadors were chosen by a panel of judges including prominent artist Stanley Wong.

Those selected get the chance to work as volunteers at the booth, which showcases the Octopus electronic payment system.

Two batches of students have already visited Shanghai and two more will go in September and October. One of the requirements to win an air ticket and accommodation is to design a postcard the applicant thinks best represents Hong Kong.

To used three photographs of an art installation he and two classmates designed, featuring piles of foam lunchboxes illuminated in a dark room.

The postcard asks: 'How many foam lunchboxes do you dispose of every day? Can you image your city disposing of 56 foam lunchboxes every second? Six swimming pools are filled up every day.'

To said he wanted to highlight how wasteful Hong Kong is.

'Foam lunchboxes have become part of our life, so common that we forget them easily,' he said. 'By highlighting how many of them are disposed of every day, I hope everyone will be more conscious of our environment. It is not about positive or negative portrayal of Hong Kong. It is about what I want Hong Kong to be.'

Another participant, 20-year-old City University student Au Wing-yan, chose to depict the demolition of Shek Kip Mei estate, the city's oldest public housing estate.

Au, who lives in a 12-storey public housing block nearby, said the demolition a few years ago made her realise that demolition and construction are constant in every district.

'Shek Kip Mei is where I live. Most of the tourists haven't heard of this place,' she said. 'It is not a shopping area, nor a tourist attraction. It may be ordinary in the eyes of many but it is the place I am most familiar with. It is unique for me,' she said.

Ada Wong Ying-kay, who masterminded the MAD programme, said the young people's designs gave a fresh idea of what Hong Kong is.

'From their designs, we know Hong Kong's icon is definitely not the flying dragon,' she said.