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Reviving traditional craftsmanship through contemporary art

Prof Lau Chi-pang


In a tech-savvy era overflowing with electronic products, how can historic, traditional craftsmanship carry on in society?

Funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the Jockey Club ICH+ Innovative Heritage Education Programme is jointly launched by Lingnan University and Hong Kong Art School for a period of 4.5 years and has collaborated with schools in Hong Kong since 2018. Through experiential learning that integrates contemporary art methods into traditional craftsmanship, the programme aims to revitalise the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) of Hong Kong and inherit the folk wisdom of ages.

Photo: Prof Lau Chi-pang makes every effort in preserving intangible cultural heritage of Hong Kong with his knowledge transfer project to revitalise traditional craftsmanship.

The programme’s inaugural exhibition was held from 27 June to 7 July, lasting 11 days, at the Sam Tung Uk Museum in Tsuen Wan. Displayed under a large set of traditional bamboo scaffolding, an architectural technique longstanding in the local culture, were the three types of artistry featured in the ICH: paper crafting, paper cutting, and cheongsam tailoring.

In the past year, a total of some 900 students from 19 schools participated in the programme. Among them, masterpieces by over a hundred students were presented at the exhibition, allowing the young generation to give the public a glimpse of the traditional culture and aesthetics of the city, turning a new page for traditional artistry using contemporary art.

The exhibition was kicked off with a cheongsam fashion show, with over 50 students modelling handmade cheongsams for a pioneering catwalk across the bamboo scaffolding stage.

Overseeing the project’s overall operation, Prof Lau Chi-pang, Associate Vice-President (Academic Affairs and External Relations) and Professor of Department of History at Lingnan University, remarked at the opening ceremony that compared to today’s material world where everything is easily within reach, people of the past had to rack their brains and use folk wisdom for entertainment given the simple lifestyle and limited resources at the time.

“With hands-on experience in ICH mastery such as bamboo scaffolding, paper cutting and cheongsam tailoring, we see the intelligence, wisdom and ingenuity of our past generations,” said Prof Lau.

In addition to the preservation of ICH, he hoped for the young to inherit and carry forward the traditional wisdom. For instance, when using mobile phones, he expressed that one should reflect on the purpose of its existence and live meaningfully instead of only looking at the surface.

The Jockey Club ICH+ Innovative Heritage Education Programme integrates education, revitalisation and investigation to preserve, promote, redefine and revitalise the ICH of Hong Kong. It actively engages traditional artisans, contemporary art practitioners and the general public to collaborate and revive the ICH, reclaim cultural esteem of artisanship and hence rediscover traditional values and local identity.

More courses on sugar-blowing, woodwork and flour doll craftsmanship are in the pipeline for the upcoming year.