Hong Kong and Berlin East-West Comics Exchange

Die Ausstellung „A House United“
Foto: Wing Lok Kwok, Goethe-Institut Hongkong

Are there successful zombie comics in Germany? Do German comic book authors deal with current, political topics? What role do Japanese manga play in Germany? These are some of the questions asked by visitors to the travelling exhibition "A House United" currently showing in Hong Kong. The exhibition, produced for the international department of the Frankfurt Book Fair, presents a selection of contemporary German comics - and they are met with great interest by the audience in the exhibition spaces of the Goethe-Institut at the Hong Kong Arts Centre.

When the curator of the show, Lars von Törne, presents the German comics scene together with the Berlin illustrator, Hamed Eshrat ("Venustransit"), in an overview lecture in early July, the Hong Kong woman artist Au Wah Yan is among the guests of the exhibition. Au Wah Yan is curious to learn more about the German comics scene and talks about her work, which is in turn fascinating for the German guests, as the artist in her mid-30s publishes a remarkable bi-weekly political strip called "What a World" in the Sunday supplement of the newspaper Ming Pao.

Workshop with Hamed Eshrat Workshop with Hamed Eshrat | Foto: Lars von Törne Comics as political statements
Comic von Au Wah Yan Comics by Au Wah Yan | Foto: Au Wah Yan She began the strip in 2014, the year of the so-called Umbrella Movement, when tens of thousands took to the streets to express their resentment over the growing Chinese influence on the Special Administrative Region, which has been part of the People's Republic for 20 years. "I was also on the streets back then, and I started my comic strip shortly after as an outlet," says Au Wah Yan.

Sam Tse Sam Tse | Foto: Lars von Törne The illustrator Sam Tse, who attended another event of the German guests in the Comix Home Base cultural centre as a member of the audience, specializes in monster and zombie stories. However, they also have political undertones - which is the case with many comics in Hong Kong. During the meeting with the visitors from Berlin, Sam Tse is especially interested in the works of German-speaking comics artists who work in the horror genre. He is particularly fascinated by the scratchboard works by Zurich artist Thomas Ott ("Greetings from Hellville"). Tse announces that he also wants to try out Ott’s technique now.

Monsterthriller von Sam Tse Monsterthriller von Sam Tse | Foto: Lars von Törne
Comic Art Jamming in Berlin
The most intensive exchange takes place between members of the Hong Kong artist group Ping Pong and a group of German artists. It began with a meeting in Berlin, which took place a few weeks before the Hong Kong visit. In late June, five artists from Hong Kong and three from Germany met for one day at the Museum for Communication Berlin and drew a large collective work in the context of an exhibition on Hong Kong comics.

Comicjam in Berlin mit Ping Pong Comicjam in Berlin mit Ping Pong | Foto: Lars von Törne
Kim Il-sung meets the Teletubbies

The five members of the Hong Kong art collective presented their works around this joint work of art. Those of Teumas Lo, the founder of the group, stood out through their connection of pop culture and religious references with political criticism. Kim Il-sung meets the Teletubbies, while current news images of human rights violations in North Korea are decorated with biblical quotations.

Zeichnung vom Comic Jam in Berlin Zeichnung vom Comic Jam in Berlin | Foto: Lars von Törne Ping-Pong founder Leumas To also joined the German guests visiting Hong Kong a few weeks later in the Comix Home Base and brought along the latest "Ping Pong" compilation. In his chapter, he contrasts drawings of Hong Kong politicians and social players with quotations from the films of director Wong Kar-Wai, resulting in subtle political commentaries.

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Information about the exhibitions

At the invitation of the Goethe-Institut Hong Kong, the comics collective "Ping Pong" from Hong Kong and the comics artists Michael Jordan, Markus Witzel aka Mawil and Hamed Eshrat came together at the Hong Kong Comic Art Jamming that took place at the Museum for Communication Berlin. For the opening of the exhibition of their works, they produced live comic drawings for a day.
The exhibition "A House United" at the Goethe-Institut Hong Kong, curated by Tagesspiegel editor Lars von Törne, runs until August 11. Special guest is the Berlin illustrator Mawil, who will come to Hong Kong for another meeting of local and international comics artists. Afterwards, the exhibition will be shown at the Hong Kong Baptist University and will subsequently travel to Guangzhou.

Please read the full article here (in German)