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  • Jun 16, 2021

Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2021 recognizes artworks on refugee crisis

Still from Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize winner TERENCE LI’s Green Walls, 2020, single-channel HD video with stereo sound and color: 11 min 23 sec. Courtesy Justice Centre Hong Kong.

On June 8, Justice Centre Hong Kong and the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao named Terence Li the winner of the 7th Hong Kong Human Rights Art Prize (HKHRAP) at a ceremony hosted by the Goethe-Institut. Under the theme “Shared Future,” this year’s edition “celebrates the extraordinary resilience shown by forced migrants with the hope to shed light on a shared peaceful, dignified future for migrants and all,” the Justice Centre stated.

A graduate in journalism and communications at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Li is a Berlin-based photographer, filmmaker, and critic whose works interrogate shifting spaces and identities. He received the HKD 35,000 (USD 4,500) top prize for his film Green Walls (2020), which follows a Sri Lankan girl whose refugee status claim has been repeatedly denied by Hong Kong authorities.  

The first runner-up, Alexander Treves, was awarded HKD 7,500 (USD 970) for Towards Leviathan, Together (2021). The work is composed of a photograph of the English Channel taken two nights after the drowning of an Iranian-Kurdish family attempting to reach the United Kingdom, alongside a smaller image of a child’s armband recovered at Lesbos, one of several Greek islands that host sprawling refugee camps. Second runner-up Shawn Pak Hin Tang received HKD 5,000 (USD 640) for Departure to Nowhere, Somewhere (2021), featuring deconstructed Chinese names on nautical chart paper in reference to “the common experience of fleeing across the sea,” according to the press release.

The Justice Centre Choice Award, conferred to the artist whose work best represents the Centre’s ethos, went to Rebecca Hon, who will receive HKD 2,500 (USD 320) for Urban Variations No. 1 (2021), depicting a changing Hong Kong skyline. Jamela Law’s 3D-print sculpture of a ceremonial hsun-ok, A Broken Vessel Cannot Hold (2021), clinched the HKD 9,000 (USD 1,160) InkluVision Award. Finally, the separately judged Youth Award was given to Trinity Ro for her ukiyo-e inspired Tears of a Refugee (2021).

Except for Ro, the honorees were chosen from a shortlist of 33 artworks by an independent jury panel comprising Chantal Wong, director of culture at Eaton HK; artists and previous HKHRAP winners Christy Chow (2017) and Katherine Vajda (2014); Grace Cheng, director of art for the Hospital and Community Art Network; artist and educator Kacey Wong; and artist and former HKHRAP co-director Peter Augustus. The HKHRAP received a total of 93 entries this year.

The finalists’ exhibition, curated by artist and writer KY Wong, is on view at the Goethe-Institut gallery until June 30. Wong told Stand News that this year marked the first time the HKHRAP exhibition was curated with the support of a legal advisor, owing to concerns that local authorities may consider artworks politically sensitive and potentially in contravention of the National Security Law. Wong also stated that, compared with previous years, the number of submitted works focusing on Hong Kong’s political situation had decreased by around two-thirds.

The six award-winning pieces will be auctioned live on the evening of June 24 at the Goethe-Institut by Georgie Hilton of Christie’s. The remaining shortlisted pieces will be auctioned online through June 30, alongside limited prints of select artworks.

Gabrielle Tse is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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