In 1989 a monumental event shaped me and everything I believed in, that event was the Tiananmen Square massacre. Even though I was only 13 years old, my whole worldview shifted and I understood Democracy to be a fight that we must each take up the fight for. It wasn’t a given, it wasn’t a “right” in the traditional sense of the word, it was a privilege that many fight and die for.
Since then I’ve been a protest person. I protested with my fellow Hong Kong people for Tiananmen and I continued to do so in Canada when I moved back at 16 for many years. Even with disability I have tried to continue protesting in various movements like the Idle No More movement.
I used to think I was the odd one out. My family steadfastly loyal to the motherland and the party line, I thought something was different about me but when I saw the sea of people around me with candles and lights… I knew that the passion of protest was in my blood as someone of Hong Kong heritage. I have always seen my people as fierce fighters.
Flash forward to the various Hong Kong protest movements such as the umbrella movement, the anti extradition protests and so forth going well into 2020. It makes me swell with pride that we have this solid tradition of standing up for what we believe to be right.
Originally Mourning Song was a complicated installation tableau with layering and multiple channels. As we built this piece around the education to the width and depth of accessibility in mind it organically became something different. As I continued to approach the project in a prayerful and ceremonial way, a different project slowly manifested into and installation portrayed through a short film.
What started as a “mourning song” as I felt the grief and sadness of watching the HK Protests become marginalized by history as Tiananmen Square massacre was, I continued to research and clarify to myself the ideology around the project. One of the questions that surfaced was what was the core message of this piece and I realized it was rooted in the feelings of hope not grief. I found sounds I captured and birds to enable a natural flow for background, communicating the hopefulness of this piece. The soundscape is punctuated by a winter soundscape barely noticeable during the protest sign tableau.
While I feel helpless and mournful about the state of the affairs in Hong Kong, especially as a Hong Konger in Canada, especially with the serious allegations coming out of Hong Kong, such as suicide cover ups for police murders/blinding of medics/journalists; elicit a state of mourning for the future of Hong Kong and our youth. At the same time, I am steadfast in this being hopeful and the stirrings of new beginnings, the fire lit from decades ago in Tiananmen Square. From the thousands of Tiananmen Square Protests there has blossomed millions who came to the Hong Kong Protests. And while tyranny may have it’s moment in history, there is always a hopeful future as the younger generation continue to fight for the people’s liberty.
These prayers I encapsulated by recreating an Ancestor Altar featuring a serene Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy), trying to mimic the street altars I grew up with my Grandmother in Hong Kong. Like the festival of Ching Ming I offer a feast to my Ancestors honoring theses prayers of hope, resilience and protection. Joss sticks, candles, offerings of meats, sweets and rice wine show my reverence for tradition of these prayers.
Thinking about the mantra from Turtle Island’s Indigenous uprising “Water is Life” and the Hong Protests mantra “Be Water” I am reminded of the resilience and the strength of Hong Kongers, like water, can overcome anything. I created a tableau of Hong Kong Protest signs that were dearest to me to document this monumental moment in history as someone who believes fervently in the new future. The youth have shown us that they are capable of leading us to the future and as long as our youth live, then hope never dies and like water we continue to flow into a future free of tyranny, free of walls and surveillance and assimilation. A future where our diversity is celebrated. Until then I present to you “Morning Song” a celebration of hope and new beginnings while honoring the heart of Hong Kongers across the globe.