Concerns about land ownership are not new in Hong Kong. We were previously under British rule; we’re part of China but yet feel we don’t – or rather don’t want to – belong; we are rapidly running out of space for housing, leaving outlying villages under threat. Hong Kong is also home to a number of refugee groups, one of which has become the focus of an unusual art exhibition.
This issue of indigenous people getting pushed off their land is the inspiration behind Topography: A Land to Call Home – a two-day exhibition by part-time Hong Kong artist Kate Hodgson.
Currently living in Hoi Ha Village in Sai Kung Country Park, where residents are constantly struggling to stop big developers claiming the land from the villagers, Kate has built her show (December 6th and 7th at PLATFORM Coworking + Events) around the plight of refugees from Diego Garcia, a small island in the Indian Ocean. Now used as a US army base, the strategically positioned island saw its people (the ‘Chagossians’) displayed by British and US forces in the 1960s.
Maps of Diego Garcia, London, Mauritius, Seychelles and Crawley make up the background of the pieces, carved into wood and painted with colours that represent industrialism and war. The paintings are then overlaid with brightly coloured Perspex engraved with quotes from Diego Garcia officials, politicians and refugees. This contrast between the two materials signifies the struggle between the natural and manmade world.
Speaking to Localiiz, Kate, who teaches art full time at Hong Kong’s KGV school, said, “The work about Diego Garcia is more about engaging the viewer to think about land and who actually owns it – the indigenous people, a country, a state, a government or in some cases even a person.”
A refugee living in Hong Kong will lead a talk on the opening night of the exhibition, and all money raised will go towards helping the Chagossians and advancing the work of Vision First, a non-profit organisation offering assistance to Hong Kong refugees. Kate hopes her art will encourage people to think about the rights of indigenous communities to live on their own land without the threat of displacement.
“We are so privileged to have the right colour passport, and many people in HK may not know that there are so many people in need on our doorstep,” said Kate. “Hopefully the exhibition will inform others about the plight of the Chagossians but also make them aware of the refugees in HK who need help.”
What: Topography: A Land to Call Home
Where: PLATFORM Coworking + Events 1-3/F 120 Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun
When: December 6th and 7th. Opening reception on December 6th from 6:30pm – 10:30pm (speaker at 7:30pm)
RSVP: On the Facebook Event Page or call 3460-7788 for more information.