When Fidel Meets Mao

When Fidel Meets Mao
Photographs by Joseph Fung Hon Kee, Yamile Calderon Bermudez
Visual response by Chan Ka Yuen
Curated by Mak Siu Fung

An exhibition organised by Chinese Contemporary Xchange

Opening: Friday, August 3 (6-9 pm)
Exhibition runs through August 12, 2018

This exhibition is a matching of two pairs of people: Fidel Castro and Mao Zedong; Yamile Calderon and Joseph Fung. Four of them are maverick people. 

Both Fidel and Mao are well-known communist pioneers and top leaders. Yamile and Joseph are photographers who like to rethink the relationship of politics and images. They both were not born in the communist countries. By coincidence, they were using familiar observation methods and compositions to document how the Chinese and the Cuban people posit Fidel and Mao in their daily life and environment.

Yamile was born in a democratic Colombian society and received her Fine Arts Education in Norway. When she was traveling in the communist country, Cuba, she was so curious about the phenomenon that Fidel’s icons are everywhere in the country. She asked, " Fidel's photos can be arranged in the intimate spaces of the grassroots. Who is Fidel in the people's heart then? Is he is a God, a Savior, a grandfather, a father or a Big Brother for the people?  He was always being hanged on the wall but no body had been seeing him. Who and where is Fidel?" 

Yamile asked again," Cuba was a Catholic country. Now, Fidel's icon replaced the icon of the God came after the arrival of Communism. Are Communist and religious using images to educate the mass, or visual culture is a game of power itself?"

Joseph Fung was born before the establishment of Communist Government in Mainland China. He followed his family migrated to Hong Kong region because of political instability. His main stages for his growing up were Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. He received his Fine Arts education in America. Joseph was the pioneer of Hong Kong photographers to explore and understand the Motherland of China before the Opening of Economy policy. The motive of him to document Mainland China systematically for decades was his ignorance of the mainland and his uncertainty of identity. 

The first picture of the Mao icon series was took in 2001. That was an act of subconscious for him to took pictures of Mao icons. Then, these Mao pictures accumulated and became a system. .

Though the process of taking picture and review, he realized that Mao has a psychological function for the grassroots, Mao is a God of protection for people. 'He' protects the grassroots from different waves of political flights and movements since Cultural Revolution. Mao brings fortunes and avoids mishaps. 

Joseph noticed that the people who still hang Mao's icons are positing at the grass-roots level nowadays. The authority, the new middle class or the powerful people do not hang Mao’s icons anymore. The Market Economy System is against to the fetish of Chairman Mao. The Fetish of Chairman Mao is fading according to the changes of power in the tidal of time.
(Vik Lai)