Friendship floats the boat

Education | Ivy Ong-Wood 27 Oct 2020

If you want your children to learn empathy, a key step is understanding others. That is what Nang Tu Do, coorganized by The Chinese University of Hong Kong's department of fine arts and art fellowship Garden Streams, aims to do.

Nang Tu Do (Miss Freedom in English) features the life of Vietnamese boat people in detention camps in Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s. It takes its name from Tu Do (Freedom Magazine), which was published by the boat people in the camps at that time.

Open to the public for free at the CUHK main library from now until to April 16, the exhibition will showcase a number of detailed photographs taken in the camps, as well as works by Garden Stream artists.

Its main aim is to discuss the relationship between "refugees" and contemporary society by reviewing these pieces of almost forgotten history.

Said curator Leung Ho-yin, who is also a part-time instructor at the department: "Refugee seems to be a far away concept. But it is actually very close to us.

At the heart of the exhibition are artworks from a 1988 Garden Streams project called Art In the Camps, which aimed to bring art into the detention camps. Its archive officially became a permanent collection when it became part of the Special Collection of the CUHK library in 2019.

The upcoming exhibition will display nearly 50 works from the archive, thematically arranged into five categories: body, fences, imaginary landscape, art pedagogy with children and women's embroidery works.

A dozen photographs taken in the detention camps and which have never been displayed will also be included in this exhibition, along with newspaper clippings and other related documents.

A key Art In the Camps figure, Evelyna Liang, said: "Every time I look at these paintings, they remind me of the friends I made inside the camps. For me, these are more than paintings.

"To this day, I still keep in touch with some of the boat people. Recently, I have contacted some European refugees, hoping to give full play to art in people."

In addition, four contemporary artists have been invited to react to the archive by creating art works. To give the audience a deeper understanding of Vietnamese boat people's lives in Hong Kong, a series of public programs, including online talks, workshops and a field trip, will be organized throughout the exhibition period.

Former Art In the Camps artists will talk about their experience in detention camps and show their art works. Corina Hoang, one who fled in a boat herself and who has become a scholar today, will show her research on the history of refugees from Vietnam.

In December, Les Bird, a former member of the Hong Kong Marine Police, will lead a guided tour to Tai Ah Chau, where he first met the boat people and retraces his memories.


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