ART – The Cattle Depot Artist Village (Comfort Women Exhibition)

Originally a government-owned slaughterhouse, Ma Tau Kok’s Cattle Depot Artist Village was renovated and reopened as artist’s studios in 2001. Home to around 20 such art groups, it was opened to the public in 2009 and occasionally hosts exhibitions.

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Though a  welcome rarity in a city renowned for its cluelessness with art and culture, red tape continues to inhibit artistic expression as resident artists cannot paint the walls, place works outside their studios, stay overnight or conduct any public functions without a Public Entertainment Licence. Only recently have the public been allowed to even visit.

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GovHK’s short-sightedness, obstructionism and outright hostility towards any grassroots cultural or artistic expression will mean that we will inevitably continue to lose out to neighbours such as Singapore.

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1A Space is currently exhibiting a number of pieces by Chang-Jin Lee – a Korean-born visual artist based in New York City. They tackle the horrific story of WWII ‘Comfort Women‘…

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The exhibition consists of several posters which play on the original advertisements for Comfort Women…

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There are subtitled video installations in which victims and ex-Japanese soldiers recall their experiences. It makes for pretty horrendous listening – many of these elderly people speak of the time as if it happened yesterday…

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The majority of the women were from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines. However, women from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Japanese-occupied territories were used for sexual slavery in military “comfort stations”…

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One of the actual videos from the installation (spoken by an ex-solider)…

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED brings to light the memory of 200,000 young women, known as “comfort women,” who were systematically exploited as sex slaves in Asia during World War II, and increases awareness of sexual violence against women during wartime.

Based on artist Chang Jin-Lee’s research since 2007 in Asia, (including Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia), meeting “comfort women survivors” and a former Japanese soldier from W.W.II, COMFORT WOMEN WANTED involves ad-like prints and multichannel video installation.

The gathering of women to serve the Imperial Japanese Army was organized on an industrial scale not seen before in modern history. This project promotes awareness of these women, some of whom are still alive today, and brings to light a history which has been largely forgotten and denied.

The title, COMFORT WOMEN WANTED, is a reference to the actual text of advertisements which appeared in Asia newspapers during the war. When advertising failed, young women from Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Netherlands were kidnapped or deceived and forced into sexual slavery. Most were teenagers, some as young as 12 years old, and were raped by as many as fifty soldiers a day at military rape camps, known as “comfort stations.” By some estimates only 30% survived the ordeal.

Whenever there’s a war we hear about the suffering of soldiers, yet we hear almost nothing about the plight of women who are kidnapped and raped, or killed. Often it is the poorest and most marginalized elements of society who suffer most. Throughout history women like this are too often invisible, forgotten and left with no place to turn.

The “Comfort Women System” is considered the largest case of human trafficking in the 20th century. Much in the same way that acknowledgment and awareness of the Holocaust helps to insure it will not happen again, by acknowledging this issue we can prevent another generation of enslaved “comfort women” from happening anywhere ever again.

In the 21st century, human trafficking has surpassed drug trafficking to become the second largest business in the world after arms dealing. The “comfort women” issue illustrates the victimization which women suffer in terms of gender, ethnicity, politics, and class oppression, and how women are still perceived as a disposable commodity. This project promotes empowerment of these and all women, and seeks to establish a path toward a future where oppression is no longer tolerated

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Wong Chun Wing is one of the several artists permanently based in the village…

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