Sitting Down with Hong Kong's Hu Jintao Satirist
Cartoonist Ng Kap-chuen, aka Ah To, is best known for “Great Canton and Hong Kong Proverbs,” an illustration of 81 Cantonese idioms. He is the creator of the famous “Golden Creature Cards” on online forum HKGolden, creatures which sound similar to Cantonese obscenities.
HK Magazine: When did you start drawing?
Ah To: I’ve been drawing ever since I learned how to pick up a pencil. Before I became an online cartoonist, I used to work in graphic design. I’d always wanted to create my own illustrations, but never had the chance. But in 2011 social media became prominent and Facebook introduced its “Pages” function. Then I was able to start posting illustrations, both on HKGolden and Facebook. It started garnering attention from the public, which motivated me to keep creating my own cartoons.
HK: Where does the name “Ah To” come from?
AT: To explain that I have to go back to my days on HKGolden. I used to create these [satirical] “Golden Cards” for the forum. My username was “Hu Lun To,” which translates as a derogatory nickname for the former president of China, Hu Jintao. The cards became really popular and publishers started to approach in hopes of publishing my creations in a book. I was told the name was too offensive to be published, so I changed it to “Ah To”—simple as that.
HK: Would you identify as a “Golden Jai,” someone who’s always on HKGolden?
AT: I used to hate being called a “Golden Jai” because it usually implies a negative connotation. To most people HKGolden gives the impression of being rude, offensive and vulgar. But I chose HKGolden as a platform to present my creativity, and the fact that it has no restrictions on language or content has contributed to its vitality as a place for netizens to discuss political issues openly. There are no limitations and I can go anywhere with my creations. I would proudly call myself a “Golden Content Creator.”
HK: Of all your creations, which are you most proud of?
AT: I would have to say it’s the Cantonese proverbs cartoon, because it garnered a lot of attention—especially from overseas, which was quite surprising. Overseas readers use Cantonese as a second language, and they look at Cantonese from a different perspective. They have a passion for the language that is different from local people’s.
HK: How do you see your role as a cartoonist?
AT: I see myself like a bridge between very boring political news and the public. I hope people can understand and be more aware of society through my work, and I hope to present complicated and boring political issues in a humorous, whimsical and slightly ironic style.
HK: Will you keep doing this for the rest of your life?
AT: I’m not sure of the possibilities, but I really hope I can continue to be an online cartoonist. What’s scary about having a job like this is that you can never be sure of anything. The pace of the internet is too fast, so I have to keep creating in order to catch up, or I may lose to newer content creators. Compared to what I used to do as a graphic designer, this is definitely a lot more time-and energy-consuming, but of course the rewards of having positive responses from my readers are what keep me going, and I hope that there will be more in the future. I hope that I can keep on doing what I love for a living.
HK: What’s up next for you?
AT: I am thinking of working on another book that promotes Cantonese, similar to the proverbs cartoon posters. At the moment I don’t have time for it, but a book is definitely on its way. I’ll also be participating in a toy exhibition this December and will be showcasing my Golden creatures in the form of plastic dolls.
HK: Do you have a message for our readers?
AT: I know a lot of your readers don’t read Chinese, but I would like to call out to them and let them know that there’s a budding creative scene online in Hong Kong, and a lot of up-and-coming online artists with huge potential. I hope more attention will be given to them.
Check out Ah To online at facebook.com/ArToHK.