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This year’s Cheung Chau Wave festival, featuring art and photography on the theme of riding ferries including Ferry Tale #1 (2020) by Wong Wei-him (pictured) and events such as film screenings, is being held every weekend in August. Photo: Cheung Chau Wave/Wong Wei-him

Films, art, ocean pictures at the heart of Cheung Chau Wave, a festival of culture on one of Hong Kong’s peaceful outlying islands

  • ‘People have been starved of culture during the pandemic,’ says one of the founders of the Cheung Chau Wave arts festival on the Hong Kong outlying island
  • It will take place every weekend in August and includes an online and physical show of art and photos, many contributed by the public, themed around ferry rides

Like many of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, Cheung Chau –10km (6.2 miles) southwest of Hong Kong Island and with a population nudging 23,000 – provides a chilled alternative to fast-paced city life.

Danish-born Christina Jensen has called it home for almost a decade. In 2017, to capture the island’s creative spirit, she co-founded Cheung Chau Wave, a non-profit community project, with other artists and arts administrators. Run by volunteers, it is a showcase for local arts and culture.

“We never planned on making Cheung Chau Wave an annual event but wanted it to evolve organically,” says Jensen. “People have been starved of culture during the pandemic. It was time for another one.”

This year’s festival follows a different template to previous editions: instead of being held over one weekend it will take place over every weekend in August.

One Breath Moment #1 (2021) by Kenze Leung is one of the artworks included in this year’s Cheung Chau Wave festival. Photo: Cheung Chau Wave/Kenze Leung

Exhibits won’t be spread across the island but contained in a single venue that isn’t being publicly disclosed. To find out its location, organisers ask people to email them. .

The festival opens with the premiere of Benson Koo’s film Cinema Quietude, filmed in the ruins of the former Cheung Chau Cinema.

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At the heart of the event is “Island Portal”, an online archive of artwork focusing on peoples’ experiences taking ferries (which afford the only public means of access to the island). About 80 per cent of the works shown online will also be on physical show at the secret venue.

“I came up with the Portal concept as a creative way to enhance the ferry ride,” says Jensen. “Ferry passengers are often buried in Facebook, so this project can help break that cycle,” she says.

Members of the public have contributed work from photos and poetry to paintings and video.

Drazilla (2020) by Ar Sai Hong Shek. Photo: Cheung Chau Wave/Ar Sai Hong Shek

Also on show are selected works from more than 35 artists in mediums including photography, film, music and sculpture.

Many of the artists were born and raised in Cheung Chau. Not surprisingly, the ocean is a popular theme.

Take the work One Breath Moment by underwater photographer Kenze Leung. He learned freediving in Taiwan in 2019 but was never tempted to explore Hong Kong’s murky waters, not even those off Cheung Chau where he grew up.

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That changed last year when he was “grounded” by Covid-19. He decided to take a dive locally. His images – some showing his freediving buddies, others capturing Hong Kong’s rich marine life – have a tranquil, ethereal feel.

In Ferry Tale, Hong Kong photographer Wong Wei-him (inspired by Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt and Japanese street photographer Shin Noguchi) captures life on the water, from the sublime – passengers taking naps – to the ridiculous, best seen in ferry passengers dressed as superhero characters from the Power Rangers series.

In Daze, artist Ar Sai Hong Shek, who grew up in Cheung Chau, encourages people to let their imagination run wild and indulge in some good old-fashioned cloud shape making. Many of his paintings include boats, in a nod to the island’s fishing industry roots.

Neuroplasticity (2021) by chaussette b. Photo: Cheung Chau Wave/chaussette b.

French artist chaussette b. uses a mad mix of materials – dried lychee, earplugs, paint brushes, cat hairs – for her installation Neuroplasticity, the term for the brain’s ability to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired.

“The artist suffers from chronic shoulder pain,” says Jensen. “Her mind-blowing sculptures represent those wires in her brain and her attempts to remap them to control her pain … it really is a true form of art therapy.”