Japanese artist Chikara Fujiwara’s Engeki Quest takes urban explorers on a magical tour of Hong Kong’s colourful Choi Hung Estate
Scavenger hunt encourages players to take a closer look at the well-known neighbourhood and interact with its residents
Booklet in hand, two youths in their 20s make their way to a car park rooftop above Ngau Chi Wan Market in Hong Kong. At the top, they raise their eyes to take in the rainbow-coloured Choi Hung Estate – and are stunned by the view.
The pair stop for a few minutes, as instructed by their “adventure book” for Engeki Quest – The Rainbow Masseur, an urban exploration project in the form of a scavenger hunt that takes place around Choi Hung and is curated by Japanese critic and artist Chikara Fujiwara, 44.
The project – which is running for the first time – gives participants a chance to experience the district’s hidden beauty from a foreigner’s perspective.
Realising that many players will be familiar with the well-known public housing estate, the guide recommends that they make an effort to take in their surroundings.
“Depending on where you look, what you see changes. By moving around, you will have a different vision,” the book says.
The project brought 80 participants to the East Kowloon district last week.
“There are 132 text fragments in the book, and depending on each player’s decision, how they see Choi Hung will differ,” Fujiwara says.
No two people will have the same encounter. The choices they make will affect what they see and hear, and the book will take them to different locations in Choi Hung, according to the Yokohama-based artist.
From the colourful public estate in Ngau Chi Wan to neighbouring Ping Shek Estate and Ngau Chi Wan Village, Engeki Quest will lead players to experience the different sounds and sights of the area, including its refuse collection point and donation boxes as well as traditional shops and restaurants.
One stop is a clock shop, the owner of which has agreed to help with the scavenger hunt.
“To provide a series of clues for the players to continue in the game, he has set all clocks and watches in his store to a certain time,” Fujiwara says, adding that encounters like this will encourage interaction and understanding between locals and participants.
The idea for a scavenger hunt came after Fujiwara ventured into Choi Hung – Cantonese for “rainbow” – one afternoon and stumbled across a neighbourhood cha chaan teng – a Hong Kong-style tea cafe.
Inside, he found himself among regulars. Sitting there observing customers come and go, the artist felt like he was an audience member watching a play.
For two days, he and his assistant, Minori Sumiyoshiyama, 36, roamed the estate.
“You will lose yourself in the corners of the district – just like we did when we first came here, and it will serve as a detox that will refresh your mind, body and soul,” Fujiwara says.
“You will be creating a little theatre in your mind, and you are the actors on the ‘stage’ as you travel back and forth between reality and fantasy.”
Fujiwara recalls standing in the middle of a basketball court in front of the estate, admiring its vibrantly coloured residential buildings.
“In a city where thickets of high-rise buildings often stretch upwards across Hong Kong, I am completely drawn to Choi Hung Estate,” he says.
“The rainbow-painted panels of 11 different colours are a breath of fresh air among the rigid and uniform environment in Hong Kong.”
He hopes the people of the city can take time to enjoy the view.
“No matter how well you know the neighbourhood, it never ceases to surprise,” he says.
The Engeki Quest urban experience is a part of the Thematic Walk Project organised by the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Participants chart their way through the city, each with their own adventure book to help them discover the unknown.
“Those in bustling Hong Kong are always rushing from one place to another, I want to promote the idea of venturing into a community. Not only understanding, getting to know the people, but also understanding their backstories,” he says.