Jockey Club Arts-based Cross Curriculum Creative Learning Project (2022)
Communication, an overstated and much bandied word in today’s context. Yet it is true, we all need it. I find this word a handful because it seems so simple. In human terms, words define us. Yet being the only warm-blooded mammal that uses language, sometimes it really gets in the way.
First you have to form a thought, have an idea, organise it into a language — in Hong Kong, Cantonese is the dialect for daily life, one that cannot always be written though English is used for non-Chinese speakers or increasingly, Putonghua which is the lingua franca for global ethnic Chinese — then for me at least, attempt to make coherent sense of what I have to say.
Daily routines and conversations are of course fine having been born in this city and spent most of my life here, being educated here until after university before further studies abroad. But my family did not originally hail from Hong Kong and Cantonese was never the family preferred banter.
It is in getting messages across in more formal circumstances that regularly perturbs me to the extent that on occasions, I wonder if I am actually saying or writing the meanings that have made the long and circuitous journey from my mind to the mouth, the ballpoint pen, the email as I write.
Perhaps it is after years of being immersed in what I am deeply passionate about — the arts in education — that is progressively making me very cautious about how the two disciplines actually come across as time after time, effort after effort, expression after expression, I try to explain the core of the arts in education and its deep impact on lives, many times of little avail I suspect.
It is not merely that the arts provide other diverse platforms for expression, through acting, dancing, music, painting, sculpting. These can be perfunctory and often mechanically ingrained in exam- and performance-based accolades rather than feeling for, understanding and immersing oneself in their true values. There comes a time when living up to the Jones’ (or the Chans’ in Hong Kong) becomes so routinised and brain fog sets in with no further thinking on the rationale for the pursuit of the arts.
Why does one dance, why play an instrument why watch a play and why look at artworks if we are only staying on one level.
We need more discussions on the innate characteristics of the arts on why they matter for themselves and for education, a city, a country. With this, we need research which is invisible in the main here. We need higher education institutions to converse with artists to engage in more intellectual stimulation than the exhibition and the show. We need policymakers who actually stop and listen to more than what they want. We need parents to spend time understanding why the arts matter. It seems to me that children are the only ones able to embrace the arts.
Talk is easy; communicating is tough.