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City Weekend

Hong Kong artist sheds light on immigrants’ stories to build understanding

Project at festival invites reflection on struggles of those seeking better life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 10:30am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 10:30am

Alex first fled his hometown in Iraq, ravaged by decades of conflict and sanctions, for Turkey. Then he journeyed to Cyprus, then back to Turkey, and eventually sought asylum in Hong Kong.

But over the past three years, Alex – whose asylum claim is still pending and surname is not disclosed to protect his privacy – has been living in darkness. He has no right to work in the city, and is forced to rely on government handouts. Most of the time, he stays in a tiny flat in Kowloon City.

Alex’s gloomy story is one of five narratives that local artist Kingsley Ng Siu-king seeks to spotlight in his most recent art project, “Over the Ocean”, installed in Chater Garden in Central.

In Ng’s light projection project, the public can place on water paper boats carrying tea lights. The boats float in sync with five different songs based on the stories.

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“Light is often used not only as a medium, but also as a metaphor for making art and to cast light on the imperceptible, hidden or forgotten,” the 37-year-old Hong Kong native explains.

Ng, an assistant professor at Baptist University’s Academy of Visual Arts, is an interdisciplinary artist who tends to use more than one medium to illustrate his work. He describes working often with the ephemeral and intangible, such as light, sound, space and time.

Ng himself emigrated to Canada when he was 14, and claims Over the Ocean is a microcosm of Hong Kong.

“For hundreds of years, people from afar have travelled thousands of miles to this city, and eventually called it home,” he explains. “Lots of us have some kind of immigration background, but living in fast-paced Hong Kong, we seldom have the time to learn and observe our surroundings.”

For hundreds of years, people from afar have travelled thousands of miles to this city
Kingsley Ng, artist

Ng believes Hong Kong is a multicultural city but not everyone is integrated equally. He recalls his junior high school in Toronto organising something called “multicultural night” and thinks such activities offer a good opportunity to learn how to respect people from different cultural backgrounds.

“There are indeed many cultures in Hong Kong. It’s just that they don’t necessarily blend together, and different cultures do not always have a good understanding of one another,” he says.

Ng hopes his project can serve as a listening space, aspiring to “invite others to listen to the songs and stories of those who have drifted” to, from and around the city.

“Over the Ocean” is part of the light festival Lumieres Hong Kong, held from Thursday to Saturday. The three-day event involved 16 installations across Kowloon and Hong Kong Island that were illuminated between 7pm and 11pm.