Memory Capsules in Housing Estates

More than half of Hong Kong people have the experience of living in public housing estates. What seems to be the most ordinary, the life in housing estates is precisely an important element that constitutes the history and culture of the community. By collecting stories from the neighbours and evoking past memories, we envision to re-create a closely-connected community network like in the old days, and to increase people’s awareness about public space usage and its connection to community resources in the area, such as parks and small businesses.

Focusing on the historic housing estates in Shek Kip Mei and Cheung Sha Wan, we set up street stations in Shek Kip Mei Estate, Nam Shan Estate, So Uk Estate, and Li Cheng Uk Estate where we collected stories from the neighbors who would pass by. In addition, follow-up story-telling sessions were held both online and offline, moderated by guest speakers such as long-time neighbours and staff from social organisations, to revisit and investigate into the background and details of the collected stories. The events were streamed on social media so the public could also participate online. These real stories collected from the neighbours not only served as content materials for our future tours, but also as a guideline to help us select attractions, locations and design future routes.

This time, we trained ten enthusiastic neighbours and individuals to become our community guides. Taking advice from local neighbours as an entry point and also adding their personal experiences and stories, our community guides developed two tours entitled respectively “Traveling back in times: Kowloon Tsai” and “Time capsultes of Cheung Sha Wan: An Adventure in Housing Estates”, reaching Nam Shan Estate, Tai Hang Sai Estate, Tai Hang Tung Estate, So Uk Estate and Lee Cheng Uk Estate.

Community guide in Cheung Sha Wan introducing a cultural artifact from the old times: a kerosene stove

The diversity in forms and methods when enacting this project enables the public to engage meaningfully with the community, bringing them closer to their bondings with the neighbourhood. Whether for long-time senior locals or newly moved-in residents, young or old, they all reported having deepened their understanding of the lives here who made the history of the place. The power of storytelling and interactions brought about deeper connections, resonance and curiosity. Participants were inpirsed to further explore and reflect on social issues such as housing development, cultural conservation, neighbourhood relations, and quality of life, etc. This project was a successful case in nurturing the enthusiasm among the public to engage in their communities and public affairs.

“It is fascinating to see household items from my childhood to become cultural exhibits in So Uk Museum. It is a delightful surprise to know the authorities attend to the cultural and historical values of these objects during redevelopment. Looking at this little white house and the structure for hanging clothes, I thought to myself, time really flies!” says a guided tour participant.

“The exhibition in So Uk Estate Museum reminds me of my childhood experiences and family stories.”

“This stone-made playground slide is to me the rarest and the most remarkable attraction in this tour.”

“I have learned more about the historical development of housing estates and the lives of people who live here.”

“I am happy to have learned more about this community and personal stories about these seemingly ordinary but remarkable objects in our neighbourhood! This is useful to me since I knew so little about this place and Hong Kong in general.”