Lines that unite: Domestic worker-led art group aims to spread love in protest-riddled HK

Jan Yumul

Posted at Sep 11 2019 04:59 PM

The collaborators (L-R): Guhit Kulay president and co-founder Noemi Manguerra, and co-founder Cristina Cayat with NIDO ASIA gallery creator Trevor Lin. Jan Yumul

HONG KONG -- Not all lines are meant to divide. Some can also be used to break barriers and unite.

Such is the story of how Hong Kong migrant domestic worker-led art group Guhit Kulay is shaping out to be -- and it has done so with flying colors.

The group's special mid-autumn exhibit, The Community of Love in Frames, in collaboration with Hong Kong art gallery NIDO ASIA, showcases Filipino migrants' reflections and expressions in various mediums -- paintings, sketches, photography, and even solar art -- with their take on life, love, and community in cosmopolitan Hong Kong.

Currently, the exhibit is being held at NIDO ASIA, located along Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan. The exhibit will move to the Garden Meow, a Taiwanese cafe at the PMQ in Central from September 16 until the end of the month.

An artwork displayed at The Community of Love in Frames exhibit in Hong Kong. Jan Yumul

Guhit Kulay co-founder Cristina Cayat hopes the exhibit will be a respite from tensions in Hong Kong, which has entered into its 14th week of anti-government protests, sparked by the soon-to-be formally withdrawn extradition bill saga that would have allowed criminal suspects to be tried in mainland China.

"Siguro sa tension na nangyayari sa Hong Kong, it's very timely na i-spread natin 'yung love, which is ito din 'yung idea na may-ari ng gallery na ito. Keep on creating art na nag re-reflect ng love," Cayat said.

(With the ongoing tensions in Hong Kong, it's timely that we spread love, which is also the idea of this gallery's owner. Keep on creating art that reflects on love)

The group, with other founding members Cecil Eduarte, Lou Bella Litusas, Ruby Timtim, and Noemi Manguerra, came together via a chat group after attending an art seminar at the Philippine Consulate, in collaboration with local Filipino art group Pintura Circle, which was organized in 2016.

Following that success, Enrich, a pioneering Hong Kong charity promoting the economic empowerment of migrant domestic workers, invited the group to mount an art exhibit, "Beyond Myself," which became Guhit Kulay's first public exhibit.

"I think 'yung exposure namin dun sa unang exhibit, 'yun 'yung nagbigay daan para makita ng mga ibang migrant workers na merong palang grupo na pwede nilang salihan," said Cayat.

(I think our exposure at our first exhibit, it became a way for other migrant workers to see that there is a group that they can join in.)

An artwork displayed at The Community of Love in Frames exhibit in Hong Kong. Jan Yumul

Today, Guhit Kulay has attracted 30 members, which include Indonesian migrant workers, connections in Singapore, as well as Filipino permanent residents in Hong Kong.

Guhit Kulay's co-founders said that prior to the workshops they have attended, they have not had any formal training on art. Most of them are self-taught with art serving as a therapy while working in Hong Kong.

"Hindi man kami ganon ka popular pa na grupo or may sinasabing grupo, ito 'yung way na pag-encourage namin sa iba naming katulad na ilabas kung ano pang talent meron sila kasi ang Guhit Kulay hindi lang naman kung ano 'yung mga hidden talent. Ito 'yung parang bonding na rin," said Manguerra, Guhit Kulay's president.

(We may not be a popular group, but this is our way to also encourage fellow migrants to share their talents because Guhit Kulay is not just about letting out one's hidden talents. This is an opportunity to bond.)

For Trevor Lin, a Taiwanese based in Hong Kong and creator of NIDO ASIA, it is all about indiscriminately making a place for anyone looking for a platform of expression in space-deprived Hong Kong.

An artwork displayed at The Community of Love in Frames exhibit in Hong Kong. Jan Yumul

Lin hopes to nurture more artists and their art in its nest embodying the values of love and community.
"(In) Hong Kong, it's very difficult to find space. So, I want to offer a space to those people to live their dreams. I want many people to have more dreams and tell them to dream in Hong Kong," Lin said.

"So, (with) the gallery, I believe whoever comes to me, I don't really work with artists who have a name. I care more about what they want to say... or as a dynamic artwork, what they want to share with the society and explain it. And I've seen their (Guhit Kulay) work in other places... lots of life, their creation, especially in a society like Hong Kong. It's what we need, I feel, to share."

Meanwhile, Guhit Kulay continues with its strokes, with its doors open to everyone.

"Dito po pantay-pantay. So welcome po lahat," said Manguerra. "Ito 'yung buhay at guhit ng mga migrante."

(Here, all are equal. All are welcome. This is the life and line of the migrants)