In 1841, at the end of the first Opium War, the British forced the Qing Empire to hand over the island of Hong Kong for the purposes of enabling British trade and profit. This t-shirt memorializes that event, with the yellow Qing Empire flag being painted over.
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T h a n i t i s A L L T o t a l S i m p l i f y
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B C a u s e A L L I T H I N K abot i s US in a
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With consideration of Feign's original illustration, this work prods questions about who our intended audiences are and how racialized stereotypes work to uphold historic power imbalances. Utilizing representations of language and people, this design upturns the viewing narrative of the original, to instead speak to and reflext people who are most impacted by the handover.
A decade before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, a contest invited local residents to propose a new flag for the new post-colonial era. Over 7000 submissions were received. A jury chose six finalists, but all were rejected by the PRC government. Depicting some of the rejected designs, this t-shirt commemorates a failed democratic undertaking.
Feign's illustration conflates complicated histories through a white lens, perpetuating colonial power dynamics. My mom describes their being raised in Hong Kong within a culture of internalized racism and aspirations for whiteness. My dad describes being Bruce Lee's neighbour and what a nice guy he was. Both speak of the colonial era "No Dogs or Chinese" signs, like the one Lee jump kicks in the 1972 film Fists of Fury.
As part of the Cantonese diaspora, my own cultural identity is informed by a "second-hand" version of Hong Kong culture. Starting with a digital image of a drawing of the original t-shirt, this design features photocopies of photocopies mimicking how processes of reproduction notate time and create distance and distortion.
Photos: Darren Rigo for the Textile Museum of Canada