Saving the rhymes of Shui Hau

A team of Hong Kong artists, writers and documentary-makers has mined the rich 300-year-old folk history of Shui Hau for its latest work.

Producer Christopher Law and curator Chloe Lai from Urban Diary  went to the coastal village last year to collect villagers’ stories.  The result is a a documentary and exhibition that will be on display in Shui Hau this weekend.

One revelation is that most of the indigenous villagers speak a Cantonese dialect called Wai Tau.

“I was surprised as I had always thought that it was the language of the indigenous people in Yuen Long. I didn’t expect to be heard on Lantau Island,” Lai told HK01.

They found three older women who speak and sing in Wai Tau and made them the stars of their documentary, Rhymes of Shui Hau. Lai points out that Shui Hau has little written history,  making these women’s memories even more valuable.

Local resident Terry Boyce, who saw the documentary, said on Facebook:

The “stars” of the film are two Shui Hau “grannies” who talk about their childhood experiences living in Shui Hau in the 1920s/30s (one is now 91) and the oral tradition of singing songs in their native Wai Tau dialect. Of particular interest is that one of the “grannies” was born in Shek Pik village (which is now at the bottom of the Shek Pik reservoir). I think it is vitally important to try and preserve these oral histories and this small group of filmmakers are to be applauded for their efforts

The documentary and exhibition premiered in Shui Hau last weekend. They are on again this Saturday and Sunday, along with guided tours around the village and the nearby coastal area.

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