Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” is still occupying city streets despite there being no signs of a negotiated conclusion. Amid the standoff, demonstrators are making plans to safeguard the creative legacy of their pro-democracy campaign.
From sculpture and installation art to origami and animation, the democracy campaign has unleashed a wave of creative protest.
Art has helped the movement evolve far beyond its goal of occupation, said Sampson Wong, co-founder of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives and Research Collective.
“All of a sudden, it was not just a political movement, it was also a movement reflecting on our everyday lives; reflecting on our own capacity to create, to form a community,” he said.
At the heart of the protest, activists wait to have their likeness drawn in caricature by Willa Yip, who has completed 300 such portraits.
“This [words at the foot of each portrait] says: ‘Hold up your yellow umbrella and support Hong Kong.’ As people grow old and children grow up, they will see their portrait again and be reminded that they have been part of this remarkable movement,” Willa Yip explained.
Walking past Yip’s lamp-lit workstation is Zhou Fengsuo, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student uprising.
Zhou recalled, during the June 4th massacre, the iconic sculpture of the Goddess of Democracy and other works of protest art were targeted by the Chinese army. “You see here, Umbrella Man, he is very similar [to the Goddess of Democracy] - people create things that represent the ideal. The tanks can destroy [a sculpture], but cannot destroy the idea that is spreading, that is here today,” Zhou said.
Wong agreed there are lessons to be learned from Tiananmen. His group has already begun archiving the works on display.
“This collective body of work would be very important to the heritage of Hong Kong. But it may not be properly documented by official institutions like our museums and art galleries,” Wong said.
Despite the festive spirit of the Umbrella movement, the day will inevitably come when the police attempt to retake the occupied streets. To preserve their legacy, teams of activists are on standby to rush in and save as many works as possible.