A fusion of traditional and ‘hipster’ at Kwai Chai Hong for the Year of the Rabbit

A fusion of traditional and ‘hipster’ at Kwai Chai Hong for the Year of the Rabbit

Lorong Hantu Kecil (Kwai Chai Hong) is now open to the public daily from 9am to 12 midnight, while the ‘Poetic Spring Garden’ art exhibition runs from 6 Jan to 12 Feb.

KUALA LUMPUR: Although the weather is quite hot, the evening atmosphere in the ‘Kwai Chai Hong’ lane located between Lorong Panggung and Jalan Petaling (Petaling Street) here seems more lively than usual.

‘Kwai Chai Hong’ in the Cantonese language of the market means ‘Little Ghost Alley’ and ahead of the Chinese New Year celebration which will be celebrated on 22 and 23 January 2023, it is increasingly becoming the focus of the public.

Writers and 19 media practitioners and influencers had the opportunity to visit the lane in conjunction with the opening of the Chinese New Year art exhibition themed ‘Poetic Spring Garden’ at the invitation of Bai Chuan Management Sdn Bhd, the company that manages the ‘Kwai Chai’ restoration project Hong’.

Bai Chuan Management Sdn Bhd began managing the project to restore Lorong Hantu Kecil, which is about 36 meters long, in 2019.

As soon as he stepped into the gate connecting the hallway, the writer was ‘greeted’ by a large pink hibiscus flower on the right side of the wall, which was also decorated with butterflies and various other flowers, against the background of neon lights.

“Welcome to Kwai Chai Hong, here is your Poetic Spring Garden in conjunction with the Year of the Water Rabbit,” said Bai Chuan Management Sdn Bhd’s Managing Director, Zeen Chang, as he pointed to the flower and butterfly decorations along the lane.

The flower garden-themed exhibition, decorated with red mini lanterns, was also embellished with traditional elements of Chinese society, including the calligraphy Gong Xi Fa Chai written in black on a red banner.

Gong Xi Fa Cai is a sentence in Mandarin that means “Congratulations on Getting More Wealth”.

More interestingly, the banner decorated with calligraphy writing is also hung with a bamboo stick in the middle of the lane, allowing anyone to sit on it as if it were a ‘swing’ in the garden.

COMBINATION OF TRADITIONAL AND ‘HIPSTER’

According to Chang, his party wants to highlight the celebration of Chinese New Year by combining modern and traditional elements to attract the interest of young people to appreciate the creativity of the art and culture.

“This is something that is always applied to attract the interest of young people to ‘return’ to Kwai Chai Hong to see for themselves the glorious history of the Chinese community in Petaling Street.

“We can go along with the current of modernization without having to sacrifice tradition by creating common ground between the past and the future,” he added.

In the right corner of the alley with a row of shops, there was a special big float shaped like a pink rabbit, next to a mini lantern surrounded by banners written in calligraphy with the word ‘chun’ meaning spring.

The touch of artist and street art influencer Jaemy Choong, 37, has also brightened up the once dreary ‘Kwai Chai Hong’ lane, sure to captivate visitors as if they were enjoying a summer beach holiday.

Choong, who is better known as ‘Jaemy C’, told Bernama that the exhibition corner of his work called ‘Wet Hot Spring Thing’ was inspired by his vacation at the beach and wanted to share the cheerful atmosphere with those who visited the Lorong, in order to appreciate the heritage of the Year New Chinese for generations.

He explained, ‘Wet Hot Spring Thing’ is a composition of all the good and positive elements that ‘flow’ with the appearance of the Water Rabbit this spring. The festive atmosphere is triggered by the reimagining of the ‘pool party’, float decorations and water slides.

“I often have the idea of ​​combining something traditional but at the same time, hipster elements that are very close to the new generation should also be used as a starting point to attract their attention.

“Since I was a child, I started learning Chinese calligraphy and personally, I feel very appreciative of this heritage over thousands of years. It is not easy to maintain that tradition with the passage of time,” said Choong who used to work as a graphic designer.

For the first time, he also made his debut by presenting his work through an outdoor exhibition, compared to previous exhibitions that only focused around galleries and interior design art.

“Because it was exhibited outdoors, I was more free to express my creativity in combining traditional and hipster elements in this work and hopefully ‘Wet Hot Spring Thing’ gets a good response from the visitors of ‘Kwai Chai Hong’,” he said.

He explained that, with the theme of Poetic Spring Garden, the Roman alphabet was displayed with a touch of traditional calligraphy brush.

“This is also an effort to be kind to the Malaysian community that has many cultures and also highlight the heritage of my childhood. The title I chose also shows the Chinese New Year weather in our country is either scorching hot or rainy, or both,” he said.

APPRECIATE HERITAGE

Meanwhile, the Joint Managing Director of Bai Chuan Management Sdn Bhd Javier Chor said that he was pleased that the Kwai Chai Hong project had the cooperation of many local artists to promote the art heritage of the Chinese community.

“In addition, we also want more young generations to visit historic places and appreciate the efforts of our ancestors in upholding heritage and culture from generation to generation, especially in the middle of the capital city surrounded by skyscrapers.

“Not only during the Chinese New Year celebration, but the Moon Cake festival which is the second largest celebration of the Chinese community is also highlighted in Kwai Chai Hong with various interesting activities and collaboration with artists and local authorities.

“The artists also share our deep interest in preserving the heritage and culture of the past since this project was launched in 2019,” he said.

Chor added that he hopes to use the platform to welcome more artists from multiple races and backgrounds to work together to promote their art. Chinese heritage and culture is not only for the Chinese but for all Malaysians.

“Implementing this project is a challenge for all of us from the planning stage to implementation. Everything needs to be done quickly but each one is committed to making it a reality and seeing the positive impact of this project,” he said.

According to Chor, the project, which has been planned since September 2022, is expected to not only be a focal point for artists, photographers and Instagrammers but also a tourist attraction.

“For us, the effort to preserve the existence and history of this place shows success. We will continue this effort with more celebrations and history for the public to enjoy in the future,” he said.

Lorong Hantu Kecil (Kwai Chai Hong) is now open to the public every day from 9am to 12 midnight, while the ‘Poetic Spring Garden’ art exhibition runs from 6 January to 12 February. Entry is free.

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