Hong Kong’s fe­line friends of­fer insight into city’s past

‘It’s not just about cats, it’s about the stores’

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

HONG KONG: Busy traf­fic, loud noise and con­stant passers-by? Not a prob­lem for th­ese cats. Four-legged “as­sis­tants” can be found perched in cer­tain shops across Hong Kong, keep­ing a non­cha­lant eye on busi­ness while the city does its non-stop bus­tle past their store­fronts. Their pres­ence has in­spired Dutch pho­tog­ra­pher Mar­cel Hei­j­nen to make them the sub­ject of a book and re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion — cap­tur­ing their unique char­ac­ters in some of the city’s most tra­di­tional neigh­bor­hoods.

The pic­tures show cats of all shapes and col­ors: masters of their do­mains whether on sacks of goods, atop coun­ter­tops, or al­most blended into dis­plays. “Well, they’re very chilled, They’re very zen. They see peo­ple com­ing in and out ev­ery day, they have trucks un­load­ing, peo­ple walk around with boxes, they’re very un­fazed, they sit on top of ev­ery­thing,” said Hei­j­nen. None are as fa­mous as Hong Kong’s celebrity shop cat-Cream Brother. The Bri­tish Shorthair has nearly 200,000 fol­low­ers on Face­book and draws masses of fans, in­clud­ing when his shop closed in 2016. He is also be­hind sev­eral books, has starred in ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns and has his own “Cream Bro” foun­da­tion that helps less for­tu­nate fe­lines.

Now some­what semi-re­tired, he still has reg­u­lar vis­i­tors. “I think he is a very spe­cial cat, very hand­some, very cute,” says Solid Ng, a bank teller who vis­its him twice a week at home. Such fame was un­ex­pected, says his owner Ko Chee-shing, but it’s a life that came nat­u­rally to the for­mer con­ve­nience store cat. “His char­ac­ter is re­ally like a star. He would sit down and let you pho­to­graph him. Ev­ery­day there were hun­dreds of peo­ple com­ing to our store to take pho­tos of him, he would stand up and pull a cute face, or just sleep and let peo­ple take pic­tures of him.”

For Hei­j­nen, the pho­to­graphs also point to a nos­tal­gic pause in a con­stantly chang­ing city. “I think the unique­ness in the pho­to­graphs is that it cap­tures the back­ground,” he said, while a fa­vorite sub­ject sat on boxes piled on goods in the back­ground. “So it’s not just about cats, it’s about the stores and in many of my pho­tos you see that... 90% of it is the store and the cat is very small. And th­ese are very tra­di­tional stores, they’re very time­less. Th­ese pho­tos could have been taken in the 60s.”

HONG KONG: In this photo, mag­a­zine and books based on male Bri­tish Shorthair cat ‘Tsim Tung Cream Brother’ (L), or ‘Cream Brother’ for short, are seen at the flat of his owner Ko Chee-shing in Hong Kong.

— AFP pho­tos

HONG KONG: In this photo, a cat stretches on a counter top in a Chi­nese and west­ern medicine shop in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG: In this photo, a cat sits on the counter at a Chi­nese medicine shop in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG: In this photo, a poster (L) of male Bri­tish Shorthair cat ‘Tsim Tung Cream Brother’, or ‘Cream Brother’ for short, is seen at his own­erís flat as another cat (back C) sleeps in a bas­ket in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG: In this photo, Ko Chee-shing feeds his male Bri­tish Shorthair cat ‘Tsim Tung Cream Brother’ or ‘Cream Brother for short, at his flat in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG: In this photo, male Bri­tish Shorthair cat ‘Tsim Tung Cream Brother’, or ‘Cream Brother’ for short, is fed at his owner’s flat in Hong Kong.

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