Wing Lee Street
Thanks to my blogging colleague, Marc Garnaut of Creative Spark, I experienced Wing Lee Street whilst in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society KM conference. Hope you checked out my live tweets and blog posts, giving you a run-down of the conference. BTW: check out Marc’s blog – insightful and with great observations about art, life and society. One of my very fav blogs.
So off I went to track down Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan. Why bother I hear you say? Because Wing Lee Street reeks of old Hong Kong. Like I imagine the British stumbled across when they first came to Hong Kong. Before the Western-style high rise apartments were built, the tenements on Wing Lee Street are how people used to live. The street has an abandoned air about it: crumbling, a little bit seedy looking. A derelict street stuck amidst the backdrop of pretty, shiny skyscrapers that tower over it.
Apparently, Wing Lee Street was to be consigned to the scrap heap until a little film came along – Echoes Of The Rainbow – a film that tells the nostalgic tale of a shoemaker’s family in the 1960s and won the Crystal Bear for the Best Film in the Children’s Jury “Generation Kplus” category at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival. The film was shot entirely on Wing Lee Street and now cries of protest against demolishing the seedy old buildings are being heard loud and clear. The Hong Kong government recently announced that it will preserve the street and its buildings. A 92-year-old grandmother has lived there all her life and an 80-year-old has worked in a printing shop along Wing Lee Street since he was an apprentice.
As I rushed up the (many, many) stairs to get to Wing Lee Street and turned right into the street, I was met with a horde of photographers. Obviously more cunning than me: they got there early. But I couldn’t help think of the 92 year old granny, sitting there in her once private tenement now the focus of photographer’s lenses and gawky tourists. A bit like a beautiful tiger penned in a small cage, looking out onto the world rushing by. I hope the Hong Kong Government figures out how to preserve the community life as well as the beautiful old buildings.
So today I bring you photos from Wing Lee Street and surrounds. Getting there involved climbing what seemed to be thousands of rickety old steps. I was very grateful that it wasn’t the height of Hong Kong’s sultry weather. Up and up I went, passed graceful old trees providing a momentary taste of shade. At the very top of the stairs is a large emerald-green tree. The sun shone through its elegant branches and dappled soft light from the leaves flirted playfully across the steps. Turn right and you’re into Wing Lee Street.
The apartments seem to be stacked one on top of the other, giving the impression that they’re about to topple. The entrance ways are festooned with steep staircases, Chinese red lanterns and images for good fortune. Washing flaps in the breeze as it dries on balconies. On the street, photographers and tourists gawk and gasp, whilst inside the everyday life of a community lives on, oblivious to the circus going on outside.
As I left the street and started descending the stairs, I came across a beautiful Weimaraner dog (had to snap him), some colourful buildings and a couple of gals dressed up for …who knows what! That’s what I love about Hong Kong: around any corner there is richness, texture, colour and a few oddities.