The background stories of my creative practice project
Both my mother and father were literati and painters, educated in Indonesia and Mainland China in the 1950s. They went to China to obtain their undergraduate degree in agriculture after finishing their secondary school education in Indonesia when they were about sixteen years old. In 1949, because of the call from Chairman Mao, my parents decided to leave their home-towns (my father was in Jakarta, my mother in Surabaya) and moved to China to help build the new China. Twenty-four years later in 1973 (when I was three years old), due to the ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ in Mainland China, my family moved to Hong Kong.
My acquaintance with Chinese ink, scroll paper, seal, brush, traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting was made through my family when I was about 9 years old. In fact, I was regarded as a hyperactive child when I was in primary school and the main symptoms of hyperactivity include inattention, impulsivity and excessive activity. My mother, therefore, decided to introduce me to traditional ‘ink-related’ knowledge, and demonstrated to me all the steps of ink and seal making, calligraphy and painting in order to strengthen my level of concentration and self-discipline.
Ever since that moment I was surrounded by these traditional materials, and I soon began to feel very excited with my art practice. This affection for ink painting and calligraphy has remained deeply rooted in my mind and soul, accompanying me in my later studies of design, fine art and media art.
The transition of Hong Kong from being a British colony into a Chinese city nurtured my future direction of creation in an irrevocable manner. Since 1997, Hong Kong has been a Special Administrative Region (SAR) with its own policies, laws, financial system, passports, and so on. Hong Kong has operated under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle for almost fifteen years, and local residents have been living under the influence of Eastern and Western cultures for more than a hundred years. In fact, Hong Kong has developed a unique culture that can be seen and felt from different perspectives.
In fact, it is rather difficult to identify the sources of certain expressions. I tend to be more sensitive to my relation to China than many other residents of Hong Kong, because of my birth-roots in Mainland China. I wondered if I should I feel shame at using and speaking Chinglish? This feeling triggered my interests in the meaning of Chinese language items and my Hong Kong identity. As my parents were Chinese Indonesians, we had few relatives in Hong Kong. My parents, my sister and I needed to learn Cantonese but found it hard to rid our speech of its lingering Mandarin accent. Since childhood, I needed to manage up to four different languages and dialects (Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, and English) at the same time, and have acquired adeptness in three cultures (those of Mainland China, Indonesia, and Hong Kong). I always encountered myriad cultural influences when interacting with my friends and family.
In 1997, Hong Kong reunited with the People’s Republic of China. Questions began to linger in my mind. Is Hong Kong a country, a state, or a city? Am I Indonesian Chinese, Chinese, Chinese-born Hong Kong person, or Hong Kongese? These issues have confused me for as long as I have thought about them. This social issue has inspired my later research direction and my practice in several different contextual layers.