Sketches of Hong Kong

Saudi Aramco World is a free bimonthly magazine distributed by the oil company ‘to increase cross-cultural understanding [and] to broaden knowledge of the cultures, history and geography of the Arab and Muslim worlds and their connections with the West.’

I’ve been on the mailing list for this publication for some time now and I always enjoy the variety of articles it includes. The recent copy really surprised me however, with the cover awash with a water-coloured sketch of Hong Kong. The corresponding article spreads over ten pages and consists of more of these sketches each annotated with relevant text in a hand-written style font.

The focus, of course, is of Muslim life in Hong Kong, but includes anecdotes of a more general nature. One in particular that struck me highlights how the passage of time, particularly where politics is concerned, is thought of differently by the British and the Chinese. A cartoon about the ceding of the whole area of Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997, rather than just the New Territories as stated in the original 99 year agreement, shows both Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping thinking they are victorious because they have ‘persuaded’ the other to agree to a fifty year period of compromise: the thought bubble above Thatcher reads 50 years is LONG time – 200 quarterly statements! – will he notice?; whilst Xiaoping’s thought bubble reads 50 years is just around the corner. Does she realize this?

The article is titled Hong Kong Day and Night and is written and illustrated by Norman MacDonald. I hadn’t heard of him before, but assumed he must be a long-time resident as he has been able to get his teeth into the underbelly of Hong Kong rather than merely regurgitating the superficial top layer of skin, which is all most ‘stop-over’ tourists ever get to experience. I googled him and found from his website that he’s actually resident in Amsterdam, which, along with Hong Kong, is another city I like and have spent lots of time in. I can feel an affinity developing here – maybe this is why I was so drawn to his work. I don’t think he holds exhibitions but he has had work published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines so I’ll have to keep my eye out for more of his work.

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