Performers aim to put fading village culture in limelight

Local | Phoebe Ng 18 Apr 2017

Students donned animal hats and skyscraper costumes to raise awareness of the New Territories' diminishing village culture.

A dozen cultural management students from Chinese University of Hong Kong held a community art project in an empty space in Yuen Long Ha Tsuen yesterday before some 100 villagers and students.

The village's cultural symbols, such as mangroves, free-range poultry farming, valleys, crabs, oysters and architecture, were featured by the students. These signature scenes are now rarely seen in Ha Tsuen, and the students wanted to stress how important it is to conserve the environment despite land shortages.

Having prepared the project for months, they visited the village several times on field trips and created the outfits taking inspiration from artist Kacey Wong Kwok-choi. "The hats represent the fading culture of Ha Tsuen while skyscrapers mean urbanization," said cultural management assistant professor Jane Zheng Jie. "We tried to present our observation and the city's challenges using performing arts."

Student performer Wong Yin-ming, who grew up in a village before moving to an urban area, said rural areas feel a lot different from his childhood memories.

"I know it would be inevitable the government would seek more land for housing," Wong said. "Striking a balance between development and conservation will be a pressing issue."

Yesterday's fair, held outside the village's Tang Ancestral Hall, also featured artisan confectionery made by Ha Tsuen villagers and arts competitions.

Tang Kam-fai, a Ha Tsuen Rural Committee member who coordinated the project, talked about the rapid intrusion of development, which he called "a giant dragon," to their traditional lifestyles.

"While developments brought us closer to the city culture, our own rural culture is slowly eroded," Tang said.

He appealed to the government to value villagers' opinions while trying to develop a new town in Hung Shui Kiu.

"It is really sad to see the greenery diminishing. The government ought to plan the city carefully and preserve our culture," Tang said. "They are not just only the villagers' collective memory, but also the city's natural heritage."

The Tang Ancestral Hall, the Guesthouse and Yau Kung School form a unique historic building compound and are declared Hong Kong monuments.

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