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Mini cityscapes bring a whole new perspective to Hong Kong

Artists shrink down Hong Kong for exhibition where the only thing that's big is the crowds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 11:58am

In a city defined by its skyscrapers and towering residential blocks, hundreds of Hongkongers have been flocking to an exhibition in Tsing Yi that celebrates the opposite: miniature streetscapes.

A group of 28 local and overseas specialists in miniature art have re-created traditional scenes under the theme of festivals and culture.

Some lost parts of the city are brought back to life, such as the Mount Davis squatter settlement, an enormous area that took shape in the late 1940s, taking in mostly refugees from the mainland.

The squatters were later encouraged to resettle elsewhere and their huts were eventually all demolished.

Louise Chan Tsui-mee, an accountant who was born and raised in Scotland, started making miniature art about eight years ago when she moved to Hong Kong for work.

For one of her scenes on display at the show, she spent weeks researching something she knew little about, having grown up overseas, but which formed a key part of Hong Kong's cultural make-up: the lanterns of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

"I took lots of photos of lanterns and had to go to many stores and make notes about them," Chan says.

For her, the hobby offers her an escape.

"Accounting is very boring but I like puzzles and I'm curious about how things are made," she says. "You have to be patient but also daring," referring to the sometimes daunting task of recreating entire scenes from scratch.

"At first, it's a challenge, then midway it's very difficult because it takes so much longer than you'd thought," she says, explaining the process. "Then you panic and get frustrated, but you must be patient because it does bring an enormous amount of satisfaction."

Chan says the exhibition is attracting a wide audience because it has the cute factor to appeal to youngsters and a nostalgia factor for older people.

Semi-retired lawyer Macy Kwan Mei-see picked up the hobby about five years ago to help relieve the stress from her high-pressure job.

Her exhibit, entitled Cute Chinese Opera of Tin Hau Festival, took five months to finish, with repeated trips to the flower markets to find tiny bamboo sticks that would form the stage.

Kwan chose to re-create a Cantonese opera scene because she used to live near the old Lee Theatre opera house in Causeway Bay - now a shopping mall - where she would go with her grandmother, who loved the opera.

"I'm not going for realism, I go for the romance of it," she says. "For me, it's about playing God; I put all the things I like in it."

She spent weeks experimenting with different materials, from pipe cleaners to glitter glue, to make the tiny figurines.

"You have to be an obsessive-compulsive," she laughs, when describing the key attributes a creator of miniature art must have.

One of the biggest displays is the Tai Hang fire dragon dance made by Tony Lai, which features moving elements.

Lai took up the hobby in 2007 and is now working on re-creating the Lai Chi Kok amusement park, which closed in 1997.

The 70 dioramas of mini scenes are on display at Maritime Square until May 5.