Refurbished Koon Man Space to Open – Hong Kong

(Hong Kong – 23 April, 2024) Initiated by the Hong Kong International Photo Festival and operated by the Hong Kong Photographic Culture Association, Koon Man Space, a new space dedicated to contemporary photography, is set to open on May 9, 2024. Located in Chuen Lung Village, Tsuen Wan, Koon Man Space aims to bring the art of image-making, creative exchanges, learning, and experimentations in contemporary photography to this scenic village through a series of exhibitions and public events highlighting the culture, history, and ecology of the village.

Refurbished from a 60-year-old site of the former Koon Man School with the support of the “Funding Scheme to Support the Use of Vacant Government Sites by

Non-government Organisations” of the Development Bureau of the HKSAR Government, Koon Man Space will operate on a short-term lease. It is committed to be a community-oriented and accessible hub for art and photography, drawing inspiration from the unique cultural landscape of Chuen Lung Village. It invites artists and

researchers from diverse disciplines to engage in field studies within the village, incorporating perspectives ranging from local ecology, history, agriculture, food, community design, and science. By bridging traditional wisdom and contemporary viewpoints, Koon Man Space fosters a fusion of ideas. It will also host a variety of photography events, showcasing the diversity of photographic culture. To mark its opening, Koon Man Space is delighted to present a duo exhibition by local artists Ki Wong and Pak Chai, featuring captivating works that narrate the stories of Chuen Lung villagers.

“We are thrilled that our vision of transforming an abandoned village school into a space for art and photography, conceived in 2019, has finally become a reality,” says Mr. Ko Chi Keung, Chair of the Hong Kong Photographic Culture Association. “We express our heartfelt gratitude to the Development Bureau, the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and Fujifilm, for their unwavering support, which has facilitated a seamless restoration of the premises. Koon Man School holds immense historical significance as it was originally built and funded by the villagers themselves. It not only provided education to the children of Chuen Lung Village but also encapsulated the everyday moments of the villagers’ lives. Looking ahead, Koon Man Space is committed to organising a diverse range of public events. Through the medium of photography, we aim to forge a stronger connection between this 500-year-old Hakka village and contemporary life, igniting conversations, deepening

people’s understanding of Chuen Lung, and preserving the invaluable memories of its residents through creative expression.”

The original appearance of the school has been preserved to the greatest extent possible after the refurbishment. The two classrooms have been transformed into exhibition spaces for the inaugural show. Situated amidst beautiful natural scenery with a front yard, Koon Man Space offers a serene and contemplative environment for the viewers.

Artists-in-residence tell stories of villagers through the art of photography

In 2021, the Hong Kong International Photography Festival invited two visual artists, Ki Wong and Pak Chai, for a two-year field study in Chuen Lung Village leading up to the opening of Koon Man Space. During their residency, the

artists engaged with the villagers, exchanging views through images, and refining the research results into the content of the opening exhibition (from 9 May to August 4).

Ki Wong’s exhibition, titled The Rock and the Gaze, is the fruition of many processes: using old photos shared by the villagers, their memories were gathered, and the moments prior to and during the taking of the photos were

re-captured in interviews. They were then processed and presented in different forms, such as zooming in on the photo and picking a focus, repainting, and translating discoveries into words. Poet Lau Sim unravelled and found language for the underlying messages from the vast collection of photographs and interview materials. In the form of short fiction, they expand on and relive the moments trapped in the photos, in particular the role and experiences of women in the old days. At the front of the stone work factory, Wong borrowed stones that hold memories, and put them into a ball of crushed weeds and seeds collected from Koon Man School before its refurbishment. She replanted those seeds, as a way to connect the past and present, and to represent the cyclical evolutions of life.

Photovoice is co-led by Pak Chai and Ki Wong. The exhibition, as suggested by its name, tells stories through images. In the photos taken by the villagers, they hope that their stories of Chuen Lung shine through. Three villagers were invited to participate in the exhibition. With different backgrounds, the Chuen Lung they see naturally varies.

Heidi Chak, a second generation Chuen Lung resident, is a photography enthusiast like her father, the late photographer Chak Wai Leong. The stream next to her home, the imposing cotton tree her window overlooks, and the ginger-yellow cat that lingers have become elements of her everyday photography. Her work encapsulates her natural, unfiltered personality. Another second generation resident, Chan Wai Cheong, through his family photo albums, tells the tale of a process of a home being built – a Teochew family, residing in a Hakka village, helping villagers with the constructions of bridges and roads, an identity and sense of belonging gradually forming. Tracing back time with the photos, Chan returned to where some of the shots were taken, and Pak Chai assisted in taking then-and-now photos as a documentation of the changing landscape in the village. The third participant, Tsang Kim Man, is an indigenous inhabitant of Chuen Lung who learned photography at a young age. His work has traces of the 60s and 70s salon style, with strong contrasts of light and dark. He set on a journey to look for the places and objects of his memories – he took photos of where he wandered to as a child, and objects he would often come across.This exhibition is an attempt to let those who live in Chuen Lung tell their stories through photography and through these works and the protagonists’ lenses, viewers may understand the village more.

Regular programmes, workshops and partnerships

In addition to exhibitions, Koon Man Space will offer a series of regular programmes and workshops, inviting image-making artists from different cultural backgrounds to engage in exchanges with public visitors. Highlights

include Photography Salon, Chuen Lung Ecology Research Residency and Guide Training Programme, Photobook Corner, and partnerships with various organisations. Some of these programmes have already been hosted in various locations prior to the official opening of the space, and have received positive response.

Koon Man Space launched the Photography Salon in December last year, providing a platform for learning and exchanges on contemporary photography, engaging photography practitioners, researchers, writers, and critics to facilitate in-depth discussions. Artist Ki Wong returned to Chuen Lung, and led participants through an introspective exercise of recognising one’s intent in their gaze. In another recent session, wildlife photographer Fung Hon Shing, curator of the exhibition Life (cycle) of the Hong Kong Newt, guided participants to investigate the challenges newts face in Hong Kong.

Alice Cazenave of the UK-based artist collective The Sustainable Darkroom did a one-month residency in Chuen Lung in March this year. In her workshops, she guided participants on the experimentation of plant developers, and subsequently took participants on a photowalk around the village. A Roundtable took place during her residency with visual art practitioners of different backgrounds, to discuss the cultivation of sustainable art practices.

Since last year, Koon Man Space has collaborated with Outdoor Wildlife Learning Hong Kong (OWLHK) on a freshwater ecology research in Chuen Lung and will be working together to bring forth a docent training programme, aiming to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the changing natural environment of Chuen Lung. Over the course of eight months, OWLHK conducted extensive field studies, findings of which will be presented in May this year. As the research concludes, OWLHK will integrate their findings with their expertise in Hong Kong ecology and ecology docent training, leading to the development of a comprehensive training programme.

Koon Man Space will also conduct a two-year visual study on Chuen Lung, encompassing the history, cultural heritage, and fauna and flora of the village. Open Studios will be held to present work in progress. Touring exhibitions and workshops at schools and community centres will be organised.

For more information about Koon Man Space, please visit, or social platforms: Instagram @koonmanspace, Facebook HKIPF Hong Kong International Photo Festival.

Lisbeth Thalberg
Lisbeth Thalberg
Journalist and artist (photographer). Editor of the art section at MCM.
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