The Queen, The Chairman and I by Kurt Tong
London Festival of Photography 2012
31 May – 23 June 2012
This new body of work by Kurt Tong combines a collection of historical photographs, new photographs and writings that retrace and bring to life Tong’s ancestral roots from more than a century ago to the present day. The exhibition will take the form of a Chinese tea house and visitors will be encouraged to share their own family stories.
The Queen, The Chairman and I will be exhibited from 31 May – 23 June 2012 at The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD. www.thehorsehospital.com
Where are you from originally?
As an immigrant, I get asked this more than I care for. Having spent two thirds of my life in England, I am still often considered an outsider. I was born in the city of Hong Kong in 1977, five years before China wanted it back. Us Honkies have an identity that’s very different to the ones of China; after all, I sang God Save our Queen as my national anthem at school. I always knew I was coming to live in England. My father studied here and dislikes the communists; he had always told me that when Hong Kong goes back to China in 1997, we would not be going back. Go back he did. In fact, he never really left. I, on the other hand, got sent here for school and I married and started a family here. Having grown up between three different cultures, one question is always at the back of my mind. How Chinese am I or indeed, who am I?
My father’s grandfather was a deckhand who came to Hong Kong from Shanghai after the fall of the Empire in 1911, lured by better job prospects in the relatively stable British colony. My mother’s family were big landlords in Southern China—they came to Hong Kong and probably escaped certain death at the hands of Mao’s advancing Communist armies. I am tracing back the history of my family in a bid to find out how two of the most influential people in history affected my family.
Granting equal importance to new photographs, found photographs and writing, the work will reconnect me with the Hong Kong of the past through the recollection of my extended family, humanizing the political and social upheaval that brought my family to Hong Kong and eventually to the United Kingdom.
The project is a visual storybook for my daughters. It is my hope that when they are older and begin to question their own heritage, they will find answers to their questions as I did during the research and making of this project.