Everyday Hybridity

Dr Paul O'Connor
Anthropology/Sociology/Cultural Studies/
Hong Kong/Ethnicity/
Skateboarding/Everyday Life

Lecturing in Anthropology at CUHK

Me

cuhk.academia.edu/PaulOConnor
@peejayohhsee
everydayhybridity@gmail.com

pages

My Publications
What is Everyday Hybridity?


Posts on Hybridity
Posts on Hong Kong
Posts on Islam
Posts on Skateboarding

tumblinks

search

free counters
Free counters

powered by tumblr
seattle theme by parker ehret

  1. Deaths Tell the Story of Life in Old Hong Kong

    This is a great little article about an fascinating book. Having previously lived in Happy Valley for many years I became very familiar with the cemeteries in the area. They do tell a valuable story of Hong Kong.

    I can’t help but draw a parallel between this type of documentation of the past and some of the Insights Abbas makes about Hong Kong and the politics of disappearance. There is something intangible and remote about Hong Kong culture and everyday life, analysis of it is often cumbersome, slippery, and unsatisfactory. However, using conceptual anchors of the past, of disapperance, memory, and place can collude to build an engaging account of the territory.

    This is of course a real gem for anyone fascinated with graveyards and biographies, but ultimately one of those ‘key’ Hong Kong books.

    Interview here

    Book here

     
     
  2. Happy Valley 100 years apart…
Here is another one of those photo comparisons of Hong Kong. I think a collection of these pictures would make a fantastic book. They really highlight the dramatic change of the territory.

    Happy Valley 100 years apart…

    Here is another one of those photo comparisons of Hong Kong. I think a collection of these pictures would make a fantastic book. They really highlight the dramatic change of the territory.

     
     
  3. There is a great piece in today’s SCMP about the changing fortunes of Happy Valley. Our old next door neighbour is interviewed and gives an interesting account of current changes. Speaking to many Happy Valley residents over the years I have come to realise that even a simple focus on just one street, Yuk Sau for example, opens you up to a really rich history. I have learnt a great deal about the different people who have worked here and how things have changed over the years. It also details profound social change.
I think there is a real need for some in-depth historical sociological and anthropological explorations of places like this. It reminds me of George Perec’s "Life a User’s Manual", tracing the contours of human life through a building, or a street corner.

    There is a great piece in today’s SCMP about the changing fortunes of Happy Valley. Our old next door neighbour is interviewed and gives an interesting account of current changes. Speaking to many Happy Valley residents over the years I have come to realise that even a simple focus on just one street, Yuk Sau for example, opens you up to a really rich history. I have learnt a great deal about the different people who have worked here and how things have changed over the years. It also details profound social change.

    I think there is a real need for some in-depth historical sociological and anthropological explorations of places like this. It reminds me of George Perec’s "Life a User’s Manual", tracing the contours of human life through a building, or a street corner.

     
     
  4. The back alley between Yuk Sau Street and King Kwong St has this new street art. A product of the “back to Zero” street art gang that mikasavela first told me about.

    This media is basically pasted poster art. Some subtle subversion int he super-hero characters, dollar bills for instance, Green Lantern re-imagined with a marijuana leaf, and the inclusion of a furtive bart Simpson. I know this back alley very well and was quite struck by the art here.

     
     
  5. I lived in Happy Valley for the best part of a decade and I have often shared some musings on its everyday life. This is a nostalgia post for a time in Happy Valley that I never encountered. It also ties in with a previous post I made about the ‘green path’, and also a point I reflect upon in my book.

    The first couple of pictures hark back to the 1970s when the horses that raced in Happy Valley would be led up and down Shan Kwong Rd. Anyone familiar with Shan Kwong Rd will recognise immediately how steep it is. At the very top of this road the horses had their stables and could be exercised and walked on the roof premises. These areas still exist, but the horses no longer get led up and down the hill, and as far as I know, no horses use the stables at the Shan Kwong Rd Jockey Club.

    The last few photos take a look at Wong Nai Chung Rd from the side of the Happy Valley Racecourse Stadium. The black and white photograph is from the 1960s and has an old style Hong Kong Taxi. This was prior to the build of the Aberdeen Tunnel. Which brings us to the second to last photograph that documents the building of this tunnel to connect Hong Kong with the South side of the island.

    The Osman Ramju Saddick Islamic Centre in Oi Kwan Rd is in many ways an offspring of the Aberdeen Tunnel. Originally land for the Islamic Community in Hong Kong was given by the government  at this spot in Happy Valley. The Islamic Cemetery has stood there since the late 1850s. At this very spot a small mosque was built. This was eventually demolished to build the Aberdeen Tunnel. As a result the government awarded the Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund compensation. This helped fund the construction of the Islamic Centre in Oi Kwan Rd.

    As a final note of curiosity, there is an underground physics laboratory in the Aberdeen Tunnel. This last picture shows the position of the laboratory between the two lanes of the tunnel. Rather modest and certainly not the CERN LHC, but I like the idea of a laboratory in a tunnel.

     
     
  6. I have walked past this church in Happy Valley hundreds of times but I have seldom walked up Village Rd toward the church. It really looked eye-catching.

    It also reminded me of St Mary’s Episcopal Church on the corner of Tai Hang Rd  in Causeway Bay.

    This photo is also a worthy addition to the post I made on Religious Diversity in Happy Valley

     
     
  7. Earlier this month I posted on the transformations of mundane spaces and wrote about the ‘green path’ in Happy Valley. 

    Those thoughts have stuck with me these last couple of weeks and been reflected back to me in some interesting conversations about photographs in Hong Kong.

    However, I found myself back in Happy Valley earlier today and I took this shot to contrast with the old view of the green path. It is remarkable how such a simple place has transformed so quickly. The signs at the top of the street are different, some bamboo scaffolding has gone up, the new brickwork is visible, and a number of businesses have changed hands just on this one narrow alley.

     
     
  8. Walking up Lyndhurst Terrrace last night and I came across a film crew languidly setting up for a shot.

    It reminded me of the time I lived in Happy Valley and how frequently you would turn a corner and come across a film crew, a movie star, or a canto pop celebrity. At one pint the press was camped outside our building for a month waiting to get a shot of a singer. She was apparently dating the banker who lived in the penthouse. Our security guards in the building bundled her out of one of the fire escapes and the paparazzi missed their opportunity.

    The scene also reminded me of the romantic comedy ‘Perfect Match’ ( 跑馬地的月光) which takes place entirely in Happy Valley and also makes numerous references to the popularity of the location in movies. The movie is now quite dated in Hong Kong terms and was released in 2000. Numerous locations have changed, the ‘Green Spot’ for example, which was the trendiest place in Happy Valley in 2000, has gone through a few transformations and is now a beauty centre I think.

    Turning a corner and finding a film crew makes you reconsider the place you are walking through. What is the shot they are capturing? How will it look in film? It alters your mundane experience of the city and urges you to look more closely.


     
     
  9. Changing Places Changing Faces

    Recently in the news I have seen a whole bunch of clever time lapse videos and photographs where children have been shown ageing years in just a couple of minutes. I have also seen a few of the same videos but done with pregnancy. At a tangent Richard Linklater seems to be doing the same thing on a more epic scale.

    There is no doubt that these videos are always captivating. It is remarkable to see human change so quickly, and also to have it documented for posterity.

    Living in a city like Hong Kong it is also really important to document the mundane urban environment as it changes so fast. In the movie Smoke Harvey Keitel’s character, Auggie Wren, takes a photo of his tobacco shop from the same street corner every single day. He has photo albums full of what at first appears to be the very same photo. He explains to William Hurt’s character,Paul Benjamin, that actually there is subtle difference in each one. Some people appear walking on the street in the background of the photos. Over the course of many years the photos show them ageing, or routines changing. For Auggie these photo albums are a visual diary. Reminders of the uneventful and mundane changes that eventually make up the sum of our lives.

    I include a photo above of a pathway in Happy Valley. This picture is not remarkable, but for the friend that took it, and myself, it holds the key to some of the everyday that we lived for a number of years. Historically the path is of interest as the green material that is visible was actually a soft sponge like flooring. It has since been removed. Many many years ago the horses for the Happy Valley races were kept on race day at the stables at the top of Shan Kwong Rd and were walked down to the racetrack via this path. The green cushioned path served to deaden the loud noise of the group of horses as they made their journey. As the Happy Valley stadium now houses its own stables this path became obsolete and has now been replaced with brick work with a racehorse pattern. I shall take a photo and post it at some point.

    This photo is also significant because during the 8 years in which I lived in Happy Valley I would see this old man selling his fruit on a daily basis. Over the years I saw his health deteriorate. I remember he sold off his actual fruit stall. Then he took to using this cart and occupied the green path for a year or more. His son would come and help him about. I remember seeing his son once in Chai Wan and he explained to me that Happy Valley was just where he went to look after his father. His father was tied to Happy Valley in terms of trade, but also lived in Chai Wan I believe. Eventually I saw the son pushing the old man around in a wheelchair. Finally he had stopped working. A few months later I realised I hadn’t seen either of them and I realised that the old man had finally died.

    Like the green path, part of the fabric of my everyday life, he had vanished. It is a theme dear to Hong Konger’s and one the Abbas articulates beautifully. With all the complexity of the city, sometimes we don’t quite realise what we are seeing until it has finally gone. Places have a humanity because of how we interact with them and the people that occupy them.

    I am going to be spending sometime taking photos of some boring and mundane stuff over the next couple of weeks.

    A big thanks to Lyn who brought the path and the old man back to life for me through this photo.

     
     
  10. Religious diversity on a short walk around Happy Valley

    I love talking to people about religion in Hong Kong and using the example of Happy Valley. Religion is something that isn’t typically associated with Hong Kong and accordingly people are often surprised to see how much religious and cultural history there is.

    A short walk around Happy Valley provides a keen insight into Hong Kong’s historic and contemporary religious diversity. Leaving Causeway Bay behind and walking down Wong Nai Chung Rd with the Happy Valley racecourse to your right you will first of all encounter the impressive edifice of St Margaret’s Catholic church. Further on and turning the left up Blue Pool Rd you see the entrace and steep climb up to Tam Kung Tin Hau Temple. If you are fortunate enough to be in Happy Valley during the Pak Tai festival you can enjoy the lively procession as Pak Tai is taken from the temple on a tour of Happy Valley replete with Lion Dancers, drumming and chanting.

    Moving across the valley to Shan Kwong Rd you will find the Jewish cemetery nestled between the Po Kuk middle school and Hong Kong’s only seminary for buddhist nuns, Tung Lin Kok Yuen.

    image

    The cemetery is quiet and secluded with a fascinating collection of headstones, many in Hebrew. Walking down the hill back toward the race track you will come across the Hindu Temple. This is often a busy site at the weekends and occasionally the host to some oppulent weddings.

    Following Wong Nai Chung Rd out of Happy Valley and toward Queen’s Road East you will pass the Catholic cemetary. A recent book on this historic spot gives a valuable and in-depth treatment of the cemetery, its origins and efforts to conserve it.

    Just next door to the Catholic cemetery is the Muslim cemetery. This was first developed in 1870 and originally housed a small mosque. This cemetery was reduced in size at the end of the 1970s when the Aberdeen tunnel was built to transport traffic to the south side of Hong Kong Island. Below is a screen shot of Bruce Lee at the Muslim cemetery in a shot from the film Enter the Dragon

    a blog posting about Bruce Lee in the Muslim cemetery

    In compensation monies were paid the the Muslim community and the Osman Ramju Saddick IslamicCentre was built on Oi Kwan Road just a few hundred metres away from the cemetery.

    image

    Turning left past the Cosmopolitan hotel and up Queens Road East you come across Hong Kong’s Sikh Gurdwara the Khalsa Diwan temple. The temple has recently been extended and has some quite beautiful views.

    So there it is. A whistle stop tour of religious diversity to be found in the streets of Happy Valley, in Hong Kong. Do note that this is not exhaustive, the Hong Kong Japanese Christian Fellowship, The Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association, The Incorporated Zoroastrian Charity Fund, are all a stone’s throw from these sites.

    So much history, so many cultural connections, some many intersecting beliefs in such a small space. An everyday slice of hybridity in Hong Kong.