Under her umbrella: artist keeps protest alive
THE sprawling protest camps at the heart of Hong Kong’s 2014 prodemocracy “Umbrella Movement” have long gone – but artist Alexandra Wong is determined to keep the memory alive.
Every week the 60-year-old returns to a spot on the driveway outside the city’s government headquarters, creating political murals from brightly coloured tape laid on the tarmac.
She was there again yesterday, the second anniversary of the start of the pro-democracy rallies, which called on Beijing to allow fully free leadership elections in the semi-autonomous city.
The anniversary comes as some former protesters backing independence from China prepare to take office after winning recent elections as fears grow of Beijing closing its grip on the city.
Wong’s creations echo the spontaneous artworks that sprung up throughout the protests. They mainly depict flowers and umbrellas in the bright yellow that came to symbolise the movement.
Caricatures, cartoons, sculptures and origami decorated the rally camps, which took over highways and commercial areas in the former British colony.
Wong was a mainstay of the huge camp in Admiralty next to the government offices.
She says going back there is her way of keeping up pressure on the authorities.
“I want to use art to express my desire for Hong Kong to have true universal suffrage and to show that the fight is not over,” Wong told AFP, while creating the words “Safeguard our HK” with yellow duct tape.
“There are a lot of high officials getting out of their cars here, so this place is very important. Sometimes I think the chief executive [Hong Kong’s leader] passes by as well, so I must persist,” she said.
The rallies failed to win concessions from Beijing and spawned a new movement pushing for selfdetermination and independence as an option for Hong Kong.
Wong says she supports that message and while her onewoman mission may seem more straightforward than winning elections, it has taken its toll.
Hong Kong-born, she crosses the border from her home in the southern mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen every week.
She spends two or three days working on each art piece, with five hours’ travel time added in.
Wong, who lives alone, says she has lost 10 pounds in the past two years maintaining her art.
Occasionally, she says, mainland border officials stop her and look through her bag of art tools, but ultimately let her through. She says she does not use a phone for fear of hacking.
Hong Kong authorities seem to tolerate the artist – although she says one woman once came out of the government building and offered her money to stop. She continues unfazed. “I will persist until I truly see hope,” she says.
Other former protesters and protest leaders were also due to gather near the government offices yesterday evening to mark the anniversary.
Artwork of a yellow umbrella that reads -“Civil Disobedience, Umbrella Revolution, Civil Disobedience” covers the government headquarter’s driveways in Hong Kong on the eve of the second anniversary of the Umbrella Movement.