HKFP Focus: Katherine Cheng Explores Relationships With Nature Through Hong Kong Botany

In dense urban areas like Hong Kong, the human connection to nature can sometimes seem distant. Concrete blocks and glass skyscrapers surround the city center, interrupted only by carefully organized gardens and nature parks.

With the relentless pressures of Covid-19 and political tensions, many have turned to the outdoors for a bit of peace.

This series, by photographer Katherine Cheng, explores the experiences of Hong Kong people who reconstruct a relationship with nature through their five senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Local flora has been used to showcase Hong Kong’s history and ecosystems.

“By isolating our senses one at a time and grounding ourselves in nature in this way, it can become a meditative experience that prompts us to rethink the way we connect with nature – physically, emotionally and spiritually,” he says. she.

To touch

Photo: Katherine Cheng

Forest therapy guide Amanda Yik puts her hand on her heart as she feels the gentle breeze and the warmth of the sun on her skin. In 2007, when she thought she was the fittest, she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Her body collapsed and two years of invasive treatment followed. All the energy she could afford was to cross the park road for a walk. Printed on a Bauhinia leaf, the symbolic flower of the Hong Kong flag, coat of arms and coins.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

It was through these slow, gentle walks in her community park that Amanda discovered how she could enjoy nature in a whole different way. Finding a quiet seat under the tree, allowing his eyes to relax in gentle concentration, breathing the morning air… It gave him the kind of comfort and anchorage that nothing else gave him. Printed on royal fern.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

Amanda feels water flowing over her feet in a river near Braemer Hill, where she once lived. At the time, she wandered the trails to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. During her journey, she has since become a forest swim guide, encouraging others to embrace these exercises in their own lives. Printed on a palm leaf with Scheffera silhouettes.

Feel

Photo: Katherine Cheng

Wild Man, known as “Yeah Man” in Chinese, gently cradles and smells a turmeric plant he has cultivated. Printed on turmeric leaf.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

The plants he grows are diverse, including this turmeric flower that Wild Man held. Turmeric leaf.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

Growing and brewing his own tea and food, Wild Man now teaches others about his way of life by inviting them to spend time on his farm. He plans the plots of his land with his students. Printed on turmeric leaf. It will be presented in an upcoming collective exhibition. For a recipe for a ginger and turmeric tea to replicate the aroma, click here.

To taste

Photo: Katherine Cheng

Raymond Kwan, a resident of Ma Shi Po, closes the door of his house for the last time. Residents and farmers of Ma Shi Po and similar villages on the outskirts of Hong Kong have faced evictions as farmland was seized for land development. Printed on papaya leaf.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

Aerial view of Ma Shi Po community farms on the last day of Mr. Kwan’s eviction. Speaking to authorities, he is told he will have to vacate his part of the farmland before 2024. “Some people do this for fun, but for us it was our livelihood.” Printed on papaya leaf.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

A 45-minute drive away, an urban greenhouse can be seen on the west coast of Hong Kong Island. The first urban farm to integrate hydroponics, aquaponics and organic farming systems, it organizes guided tours, educational programs and agricultural activities for the public. At night, curious passers-by are mesmerized by the brilliant glow of purple LED grow lights. Printed on leaf lettuce, grown by the farm. For an Apple Nut Butter Lettuce Salad recipe, click here.

Ring

Photo: Katherine Cheng

AK is a sound designer, sound engineer, and field recorder on a mission to document Hong Kong’s natural soundscape. By creating a local sound library and sound map of natural sounds, he wants people to rethink the way they interact with nature – through an unconventional sensory experience. Printed on a giant taro leaf.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

The “AK IN KK” project means “I am in Hong Kong”. AK is the name of the project founder and KK stands for Hong Kong, which is the common abbreviation for the Grid Reference Coordination System covering most of Hong Kong. The two letter symbols are commonly seen on distance poles and hill maps. Printed on a partial sheet of Fan Palm.

Photo: Katherine Cheng

By revisiting the place where he started this project with an amplifier, the sounds of conversations, traffic and birds blend into this natural urban environment. Due to the hilly geography, Hong Kong has many hiking trails that are closely linked to the cityscape. Printed on a giant taro leaf. To hear the sounds recorded during that day and explore the AK IN KK sound card project, click here.


Katherine Cheng is a documentary photographer and videographer. Based between Toronto, Canada and Hong Kong, his work explores questions about climate change, social movements and cultural identity. For more information, visit www.katherinekycheng.com.


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