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A retreat amidst the clatter

HONG KONG (SE): Snuggled comfortably among the glittering pubs and restaurants of Soho, the Culture Club Gallery offers something of a quiet corner away from the blasting stereos and prying glare of television screens that invade conversation in the area.

“I imagined it as a place where people could display their talents and interests where they could be appreciated,” owner, Aruna Rana Ale, told the Sunday Examiner.

“With my husband, we have bars, restaurants and snack shops in this area,” she explained. “They are all places where people come to talk, relax and enjoy themselves, but here they can also develop their interests. It is like a community space.”

The plain walls take on colour and character from the variety of photographs, paintings, arts and crafts that they host for public view.

“They are all for sale,” Rana explains. “This is a place where artists can become known and appreciated, as well as help them to support themselves. But this particular exhibition is for charity,” she said proudly.

All proceeds from the sales were going to a charity in her parent’s homeland, Nepal.

Hong Kong-born Rana went to high school in Nepal, but returned to Hong Kong for university studies and then began to build a career in the hospitality industry, first at an international hotel, then later with her husband in their family business.

“It is an uncertain industry,” she admits. “The gallery does not make much, but we do cover the rent and, most importantly, I love it.”

She explains, “I can see the art in the eyes of the artists when they bring their work here to display it. Yes, I really love it.”

However, the draught beer taps and fan-forced display refrigerator at the small bar in the corner does identify the gallery with its surrounds.

Rana explained that every month the gallery hosts a Spanish night. “All sorts of people come from all walks of life and backgrounds. They talk Spanish all night. That’s the only rule. I offer drinks and snacks. That’s how the rent is paid.”

The gallery also hosts a story-telling night and a literary night. “People read their own writing and then there are discussions about it. I learn so much and see so much creativity,” she says enthusiastically.

“We even have a tango night. We clear away the tables for the dancing,” she went on, explaining that any type of community of activity is welcome to take advantage of the space.

While she readily confesses to capitalising on the nights when thirsty revellers spill onto the streets of Soho’s Elgin Street, she says, “I want a place where people can talk quietly and be themselves—show off their talent and have it appreciated by others.”

But mostly she is proud of her first charity exhibition. “I am a Hong Kong person, but my Nepali blood is strong,” she says. “We are supporting a wonderful lady in Nepal, Pushpa Basnet.”

Rana explained that prisons in Nepal hold many children. “If a mother gets a prison sentence the children are locked up with her,” she says. “Pushpa has dedicated her life to ensuring that no child is in prison.”

The 2012 CNN Person of the Year, Basnet is the founder of the Early Child Development Centre and the Butterfly Homes for Children in Kathmandu. She takes children from the prisons and gives them a home away from home, hoping for a family reunion when their mothers are released.

All up she looks after more than 100 children with her enterprise.

“It costs $2,000 Hong Kong to support one child for a year. The charity exhibition is supporting that and I feel proud of it,” Rana reflects.


“I know I can’t do much. But I still just think, why not do it!”