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First impressions grow in the soul

HONG KONG (SE): “They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words and if that is so, then I have brought 60,000 words with me today,” Joni Gutierrez said in introducing his exhibition of photographs and videos on impressions of Hong Kong from the point of view of a new arrival at the Philippine Consulate General on September 4.

At the exhibition entitled, Home for Now: Hong Kong lifeworld, Filipino senses, Gutierrez said that his first impressions of Hong Kong when he arrived three years ago to begin studies for his PhD at Hong Kong University, were that everything was sterile.

“Everything was so efficient. Everything worked perfectly,” he told the Sunday Examiner. “But that was on the outside. When you get inside, things do work, but there is also inefficiency, even though it may work well enough to give hope that we can grow and move on.”

He explained, “At first I kept thinking that I am just here for three years, but now I love the movement that is inside of me and I know that it will keep on growing.”

He stressed that he believes that it is specifically in the areas on the inside that are not perfect that this growth takes place.

His 60 photographs that were displayed at the exhibition in collage form, depicted extremely Hong Kong things and maybe fairly exclusively typical of the locale.

There are chaotic streets, long escalators in subway stations, Victoria Harbour and its piers, junks, minibuses, trams, dilapidated housing, the massed neon signs and their garish glare in the night sky, people pushing carts and the mix of old and new.

His video shots show an interesting mix of the efficiency that struck him so strongly when he first arrived and the broken he encountered as he moved along; damaged trees and structures after a typhoon, the piles of rubbish that mount as each dawn breaks, gaping cracks in footpaths, overgrown gardens and lost-looking people, intermingled with glass sky-scrappers, state-of-the-art buses, shiny trains, polished office blocks and posh shops.

In introducing the exhibition, the Philippine consul general, Bernardita Catalla, said that with its new-found space, her office intends to present more of the work of expatriate Philippine artists.

She explained that she found the work of Gutierrez especially valuable, as almost 200,000 Filipinos make Hong Kong their Home for Now, some for many decades. She added that although they are transient, they also belong.

She said that to understand perceptions through the eyes of a transient Filipino is important, as it is an identity that grows and is forever developing, and is what gives Hong Kong both its endearing lure and vision of hope.

Gutierrez was born and educated in Manila, but his family now lives in the United States of America. He has one sister and two brothers, but has yet to decide where he will place his feet when he has finished his degree.

But wherever they tread, a remnant of Hong Kong dust will remain ingrained not just in the soles of his feet, but in the very soul of his being.

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