Umbrella Festival celebrates Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement of 2014
It may be too early to assess the historical significance of the umbrella movement, which saw thousands of protesters, calling for universal suffrage, camp out on the streets in the city between September and December. But one curator and critic is determined to keep the spirit and memories of the movement alive.
Oscar Ho Hing-kay, who is also a professor in cultural management at Chinese University, together with his colleagues and students from the department of cultural and religious studies, will be organising a fortnight-long festival that recounts the event through the eyes of artists.
"Many may think the umbrella movement is a failure after the occupied zones were cleared out, but, to me, it has not failed at all — it is a powerful movement," says Ho. "There's an artistic and social reason to bring that all back. It's not just for nostalgic reasons, but for moving forward."
To be held at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei between May 17 and 31, the Umbrella Festival will turn the venue into a multidisciplinary art space, featuring photo exhibitions, film screenings, dance and drama performances. Ho says the event aims to encourage people to reflect on the 79-day occupy movement and to continue its momentum in calling for democracy.
"I think the movement brought the whole department closer together," says Ho. "As a teacher, I always feel I'm not doing enough [for democracy] compared to my students. Since my speciality is organising and coordinating cultural activities, then I do what I'm best at."
For the festival, Ho will be overseeing an exhibition titled "Blossoms Everywhere", which consists of photographs from frontline reporters, personal photo diaries from students and artworks produced by local artists. There will also be a Lennon Wall — a replica and continuation of the large wall at the government offices compound plastered with messages written on colourful Post-it notes.
Other highlights of the festival include the screening of Our Golden Era, a series of five documentary films about the movement; a stand-up routine about police dogs by Chinese University lecturer Chan Ka-ming; a play called The Immigration Lottery, about Hongkongers' identity; and a student-led dance production called Chapter: 9.28 inspired by the occupied sites.
"We hope the festival could pay tribute to all participants in the movement, especially young people and students," says Ho.
"I am very optimistic after the movement because I see a whole generation so noble, determined, and idealistic." he says.
After running the festival in Hong Kong, Ho plans to take the exhibition to universities in the US, Britain and Australia. "So far, many institutes have confirmed their interest, such as New York University and Leicester University," he says.
Looking back on the movement, Ho believes it was a blossoming of creativity in the city. "The amount of artworks that appeared during the umbrella movement is really overwhelming," he says.
"And most importantly, it was not organised by a group of artists, but by many individuals, spontaneously and passionately: this is truly the best state of art."
Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, May 17-31. Free admission except for open performances. Inquiries: umbrellafest.com