Se­ri­ous mon­key busi­ness

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK | CULTURE -

Anew art ex­hi­bi­tion in Hong Kong is aim­ing to raise aware­ness of shark con­ser­va­tion and bring an end to shark finning. The Hong Kong Mar­itime Mu­seum has part­nered with the in­ter­na­tional non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion WildAid to present “On Sharks and Hu­man­ity” — a show fea­tur­ing works by over 30 emerg­ing and in­ter­na­tion­al­lyrec­og­nized artists who have sought to marry the worlds of vis­ual art and hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion. Hav­ing al­ready ex­hib­ited in Monaco, Moscow, Bei­jing and Sin­ga­pore to great ac­claim, the cur­rent stop in Hong Kong marks the fifth edition of the ex­hi­bi­tion cu­rated by Huang Du.

“An im­por­tant part of the mu­seum is to pro­mote pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of how vi­tal the world’s oceans are to global well-be­ing”, says Hong Kong Mar­itime Mu­seum di­rec­tor Richard Wes­ley. “Sharks are a crit­i­cal part of the ocean’s ecosys­tem and are uniquely vul­ner­a­ble to over­fish­ing. This ex­hibi- tion high­lights this mes­sage through some great art and I am con­fi­dent a large num­ber of Hong Kong peo­ple and tourists will agree (when they visit the mu­seum) this sum­mer.”

Bring­ing to­gether artists from across Asia, the ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures sculp­ture, paint­ing, film, pho­tog­ra­phy and po­etry. A host of educational and in­ter­ac­tive pro­grams have been de­signed to en­cour­age more pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion. The idea is to make the show par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing to chil­dren.

High­lights in­clude Zheng Lu’s Tomb of Honour, a stain­less steel sculp­ture of a large hu­man heart made up of more than 10,000 fish­ing hooks, al­lud­ing to the cru­elty hu­man be­ings in­flict on sharks. Liu Zin­ing’s oil paint­ing, Blue, presents a hy­per re­al­is­tic im­age in which a shark ap­pears to be cast­ing a sor­row­ful glance at the viewer. Hope­fully, the hu­man­ized im­age will make at least one or two vis­i­tors to the show have sec­ond thoughts about see­ing sharks as just cruel beasts of the sea.

Mar­cus Wong’s paint­ing, Don’t Kill Me, looks at the theme through the eyes of a child. Draw­ing a tear­ful shark swim­ming in the ocean, Wong uses the words “don’t kill me” in a speech bub­ble to de­pict the in­no­cence and help­less­ness of sharks, urg­ing view­ers to think be­yond long-sus­tained prej­u­dices held to­ward these sea crea­tures.

WildAid am­bas­sador Alex Hof­ford said he hoped that the ex­hi­bi­tion might help sen­si­tize its au­di­ences about the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing sharks, par­tic­u­larly since the au­thor­i­ties con­tinue to grap­ple with the prob­lem of stop­ping shark fin prod­ucts from be­ing smug­gled into the city.

“Hong Kong lies at the dark heart of the shark fin trade,” said Hof­ford. “Whilst it is re­ally im­por­tant to show the pub­lic the science be­hind the un­sus­tain­able shark fin trade, art can re­ally speak to the heart in a way that science can­not. Art can show in sub­tle emo­tional ways the hor­rific cru­elty in­volved in the shark fin trade, hook­ing peo­ple on to our side in the de­bate.”

Lo­cal artist Peggy Chan is part of the show. “I’m de­lighted to play a part in rais­ing Hong Kong’s art pro­file as well as aware­ness for such a wor­thy cause,” she said.

“In my work I like to ex­plore the tri­an­gu­lar re­la­tion­ship be­tween the in­di­vid­ual, city and na­ture, which worked re­ally well with the topic for this ex­hi­bi­tion. My in­stal­la­tion, The Shore Be­yond, com­bines three el­e­ments that in­ter­weave and spin, re­flect­ing the ever-chang­ing na­ture of life. You can’t pre­dict how the art­work will change, much like life it­self.”

While Chan be­lieves that Hong Kong is mak­ing great strides to end the con­sump­tion of shark fin, she hopes “On Sharks and Hu­man­ity” will help tell the story to the gen­eral pub­lic in a more en­gag­ing way than they may have heard be­fore.

“Art al­lows mul­ti­ple in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the sub­ject that are tan­gi­ble and vis­ceral. It has the abil­ity to reach a much wider au­di­ence than fig­ures and facts could ever man­age. We have to do some­thing to stop the de­cline in shark pop­u­la­tions — it is im­por­tant to Hong Kong and to the world,” said Chan.

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