One thing about social media is that it allows people to showcase photo albums to those we just met. This is why I decided Urban Diary’s Hidden Artists series should include Mink Chan’s story and her photography of Shui Hau’s butterflies and birds.
Shui Hau Village is bounded by the Lantau Peak in the north and the South China Sea in the south. In Chinese, Shui Hau means the mouth of a waterway, which explains the village’s geography. Mink is a 10th generation indigenous villager of the Chan lineage, which together with the Chis and the Fungs are the three lineages that settled in Shui Hau some 300 years ago. The village’s history predates the colonial past of Hong Kong. Among nature enthusiasts, Shui Hau is celebrated for its beautiful bay with high ecological value. A group of independent marine biologists spent several years to document the wildlife inhabitants of the bay.
I met Mink in the summer of 2016. Mink studied social work in college, and is a self-taught photographer. Early last year, the Urban Diary team decided that we should collect stories in the rural area. While Urban Diary has featured urban farmers and narrated stories in rural areas before, we have yet to closely document the rural area and its inhabitants. On the one hand, Hong Kong is a metropolitan, concrete jungle. On the other hand, country parks cover 41% of the city’s land mass. In the distant parts of Hong Kong, beyond the metropolis and secluded from country parks are pockets of villages. Shui Hau is one of these villages. While biologists have documented the biodiversity of Shui Hau Bay, Urban Dairy believes our expertise on story collection may supplement the biodiversity report and spark unexpected chemistry for the village. This thought gave birth to Forgotten Lantau: Tales of Shui Hau.
In her morning strolls from home to estuary, Mink takes shots of the abandoned paddy fields, wetlands, fluttering butterflies and birds. Through the photos she showcase on social media, I realise the ecological value of Shui Hau isn’t confined to the happenings in the vast shallow mudflat. The joint expertise of marine biologists and storytellers are a good place to start, but inadequate. Before we bring the naturalists on board, we have Mink and her lens of Shui Hau.