New book on Pak Sha O reveals family histories in Hakka village

Reviewed by Lauralynn & Tom Goetz, who first rented a place in Pak Sha O in 1995; actually two houses connected and architecturally renovated by Alan & Ah Lai Pickford many years earlier. It was originally a weekend retreat but since March 2014, it has been their permanent home.

The book will be available at DYMOCKS SAI KUNG, 7 Man Tin Street after 1st October, $230 HKD. On 10th October, Lauralynn & Tom will be in the bookstore from 3:00 to 5:00 PM to answer questions about Pak Sha O and the book.


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Partially renovated traditional Pak Sha O house

Artist Ki WONG came upon our well preserved Hakka Village by chance when she was exploring the Hoi Ha area. It raised her curiosity when she discovered that, under the roof of these traditional Hakka style houses, there lived a community of foreigners who re-decorated the interiors with modern amenities and furniture. Built and abandoned by Chinese and now being taken care and fully utilized by foreigners, this village brings together both old and new; east and west. The scenery captured Ki’s imagination, causing her to reflect on how traditional housing structure and living environment fails to cater to the needs of modern life.

Ki formed a creative team with HSU Wai Lun, Matthew KWAN and Somely SO to search for former and current residents of Pak Sha O and interview them for their stories. Unwittingly, the team dug into the family history of the indigenous inhabitants and unveiled struggling pasts of previous generations. With many hardships, they strived for better lives and looked out for each other as a family, surviving many catastrophes.

The team gathered and processed a large collection of photos, including daily life photos of residents and historic photos. At the same time, the team invited photographic artists HO Man Kei and NG Sai Kit, along with illustrator Chihoi to explore Pak Sha O. In order to depict various aspects and features of the village through their distinctive expressions and styles, they created a comprehensive portrayal of the place, the history and the people.

To tell the story of YUNG Si-chiu and his family of four generations, who moved to Pak Sha O Ha Yeung in the 19th Century, writer Sim LAU was invited to study the relevant historic research data of the family and conduct interviews with the descendants. With collected factual information, plus a bit of fictional creation, Sim reconstructed the story of Pak Sha O and the residents with a sense of Magic Realism.

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When one leafs through the pages of this 320-page publication, the archival function of the book can be truly appreciated. A Living Space: The Homes of Pak Sha O embodies the histories and stories of the place and its people.

This new book was conceived as part of the Through Our Eyes Photography Education Programme at the Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University. Made possible with generous funding from The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, it investigates what a living space means through observation, exploration and research.

It is the first in a series of three episodes of a biennial art project “A Living Space”, directed by artist Ki WONG. Its initiatives will take various forms, such as works of art, publications, exhibitions, websites and public events – all linked together by the same theme.

                                   

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