Ethnic minorities celebrate HKSAR's 20th Anniversary by sharing beauty of the city through photography
The photo exhibition at a Ma On Shan shopping centre on September 2 was teeming with people, waiting in anticipation. It was towards the end of a roving exhibition that had already visited six other venues.
Looking closely, the growing numbers of onlookers were curious by the mix of the throng: people decked out in vivid shawls and blouses made of what looked to be Dhaka weaves, women draped in silk saris or hijabs, and girls in pretty party dresses, while several of their Chinese counterparts stood out in traditional cheongsams.
All were congregating for the award presentation ceremony of a successful photography education and competition programme, “Hong Kong in My Eyes” (HKIME), one of various community-organised activities staged across the city to encourage celebration for all during the 20th anniversary year of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).
The event organiser, community service organisation Hong Kong Community Network-LINK Centre, explained the importance of engaging ethnic minorities. “There are about 580,000 ethnic minority members in Hong Kong, accounting for 8 per cent of the HKSAR’s population,” the organiser’s representative Ban Fan Kwok-fai estimated, noting the combination of foreign domestic helpers and local residents.
“Out of an estimated 260,000 local residents of ethnic minorities, many were born in the city. Hong Kong is their home. It is appropriate to celebrate the establishment of the HKSAR with everyone who calls Hong Kong home.”
Supported by the Home Affairs Department, the centre focuses on helping ethnic minorities deal with key challenges arising from adapting to life in Hong Kong, such as language classes to help remove language barrier and programmes to facilitate community integration. A wealth of personal development programmes and community activities catering to ethnic groups has been conducted since the centre’s inception in 2014.
Constant communication with the government department paved the way for the centre to create a celebratory event bringing together both ethnic minorities and the Hong Kong-Chinese majority.
“It has taken a year for the centre to prepare the programme,” said Fan, Director of Service of the Hong Kong Community Network.
“Although we are not new in organising photography education programmes, we set out at the very beginning to specifically make this year’s event one to promote harmony and mutual understanding between ethnic minorities and Hong Kong people.”
With that in mind, Fan and his team organised a series of interracial photography workshops headed by professional photographers in May and June. The programme attracted 43 ethnic minority members and 20 local Chinese, higher than the organiser’s target of 30 from ethnic groups.
“Mixed groups of ethnic minorities and local Chinese spent mornings and afternoons travelling together to different corners of the city to capture the essence of Hong Kong through the lens,” Fan said, citing the Tsim Sha Tsui Mosque and “Stone Slabs Street”, the upper section of Pottinger Street in Central.
Adnan Riaz, 17 and born in Hong Kong, was happy to make new friends who enjoyed photography as much as he did. “By going to the workshops, I was able to make a lot of new friends. Some of the instructors are true professionals and now I go to take pictures with them sometimes. They teach me a lot.”
With his new-found friends, the young ethnic Pakistani got a chance to visit historic places such as the old Central Police Station. Many of these picturesque locations offered the eager amateurs fresh takes on photography.
After taking the pictures, Adnan said, the group would discuss if there was any room for improvement. Beyond basic skills such as how to use different camera settings, they tried to apply more advanced techniques like flipbook making, all of which were taught during the workshops.
“It was a really amazing experience,” he enthused. “After learning the lessons, we could put the newly learnt techniques to use.”
About two dozen pictures were then selected for the seven-leg roving exhibition by a professional jury and the wider public via social media.
Among the exhibited pictures was one taken by Adnan. Hong Kong Nature Reserve Area shows the beauty of Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung. As many photographers will attest, a powerful image is as much about photography techniques as it is about the struggle to get to the perfect location and the patience to wait for the right light.
Proud of his picture, Adnan recalled: “[Tai Long Wan] was really difficult to reach. I started at 7 in the morning one day. I had to go to Sai Kung first, then a minibus took me to [Pak Tam Au] before I continued with a hike for two hours up the beautiful spot where I took several pictures.” The resulting landscape pictures captured the lush greenery of the Sai Kung coastline, and Adnan’s photography teacher encouraged him to post one of them to the organiser.
For Adnan, he was more than happy to share with others the beauty of Hong Kong in his eyes that his photo was exhibited though he did not win a prize.
Another regular snapper of LINK Centre, ethnic Indian Yusuf Mohideen, 15, and who was also born in Hong Kong, had two photos selected for the exhibition, Street Cat and Futuristic Hong Kong.
“I like Street Cat more,” Yusuf said. A lover of cats, he described the exact moment the shot was taken in his neighbourhood: “I was on the street, and there was this cat – she looked at me with her bright eyes and I just grabbed my camera and captured the moment!”
It was his interest in photography that brought him to the HKIME programme. “I don’t know all the skills, I just take pictures to enjoy them,” said the active and curious youngster, who had a similar hobby in exploring micro worlds through his microscope. By attending the workshops with other ethnic minorities and local Chinese, Yusuf met a lot of people across a range of age groups, all of whom were equally passionate about photography.
He said he would recommend that his ethnic minority friends join a similar programme so they could learn new techniques, “like the different ways of placing your camera at different angles to get different results”.
At the award presentation, Yusuf, a vivid reader and keen writer, was invited on stage to share his experience of the youth exchange programmes in Beijing.
The YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College student considers himself a Hongkonger, admitting that “I know Hong Kong better than I know India”. On the stage, he also entertained the audience by playing beautiful songs with the ukulele with exquisite deftness next to his Hong Kong friends. Their joint performance that day showed there were no boundaries in music – and the same could certainly be said about the multicultural harmony permeating this unique community celebratory event in Hong Kong.