ROYCE NG

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Royce Ng is an artist based in Hong Kong. He often works with the anthropologist Daisy Bisenieks in the collective Zheng Mahler

MOZAMBIQUE

2009, Mozambique , mixed media installation, dimensions variable

This work has been a process of researching the history of the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique refracted through the lens of personal family history. After 20 years of living in Mozambique, my mothers family left the country in 1974 when the colony was handed over to the Soviet and Maoist backed African independence movement FRELIMO. The work I created for this project is a response to specific historical points of interest that I came across in my research and how they intersect with my mothers experience as a second generation immigrant in Africa. The first works I created were a response to a passage I read in Eduardo Mondlane's text on the FRELIMO independence movement, The Struggle for Mozambique. In it, I learnt that in Mozambique, resistance against the Portuguese before the 1960's took the form of subversive cultural insubordination. When the Catholic missionaries had the natives make carvings of religious figures, they would sometimes put a devil into the arms of Mary instead of the baby Jesus, or carve a priest with the feet of a wild animal and turn the pieta into a revenge scene with the Madonna holding a spear above the body of Jesus. I could find no images of these works, as they were probably destroyed immediately by the missionaries, so I decided to recreate this triptych of figures by carving them in teak but conflating the imagery with the Chinese religious symbolism of the Three Immortals, Confucius, Lao Tzu and Mozi.


2009, The Three Immortal Subversions, mixed media installation, dimensions variable

The next work I created arose from my wish to somehow describe the complex migration of my mothers family across the globe in the last century. However, I wanted a way to not only plot their journey on a map, but to describe the psycho-geographies and personal stories and historical forces which shaped those journey's. My models were the hand-embroidered cloths made by the Laotian Hmong in Thai refugee camps which depicted their enforced migration from China, through Lao, Vietnam and Cambodia into Thailand and to the United States. These maps utilize a traditional story telling technique to tell contemporary histories and provided a basis for the map I created. A part of this project involved talking to my mother, and asking her to describe and make sketches of the various houses in Mozambique where she and her family lived. I depicted these houses in the map to reflect their gradual upward mobility in the country, and how their fortunes paralleled those of the country. The last work I created in this series was based on a salient piece of historical fact which I came across in my research. My mothers grandfather had traveled between Canton, China and Lourenco Marques in Mozambique since the late 1890's as a merchant and had constructed some buildings there which are still standing. Consequently, his family divided their time between China and Africa right up until the late 1940's when Mao Tse-Tung's Red Army wrangled control of China from Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists and property owners like my mothers family had uncertain futures awaiting them in their own country. So they decided to move permanently to Mozambique, perhaps figuring somewhere in the back of their minds that it would be the furthest place in the world from the influence of the Communists. Speaking to my mother and through my own independent research, I discovered that the African Independence movement in Mozambique called FRELIMO, received military training and were financed by Soviet Russia, the Socialist Republic of Cuba and the People's Republic of China. These machinations were a part of the broader post-war policies which would develop into the Cold War, in which Communist countries would support small arms movements in countries colonized by the West in order to destabilize their power as well as attempt to gain control of their natural resources. So ultimately, it comes to the fact that Chinese weapons used by African soldiers drove my mothers family out of Africa as they had been driven out of China decades earlier.

2009, A Gift from the PRC , mixed media installation, dimensions variable

The ZPU-4 was an anti-aircraft weapon given to FRELIMO by the People's Republic of China. I chose this particular weapon because it never made a single, successful recorded attack against a Portuguese plane, so stands as a testament to the destructive yet ultimately futile forces which were at play in this war. Futile because these weapons would play a part in the militarization of tribal communities which turned traditional enmities between tribes after independence into a bloody twenty year civil war manipulated by South Africa and the Soviet Union in order to gain control of trading routes and natural resources. I built my model of the ZPU-4 out of sticks and branches I gathered and lashed together to create a sort of cargo-cult representation of the weapons which acts as another comment on their insidious and contradictory nature. I painted the branches the colours of the Mozambique, Portuguese and Chinese flags to symbolize the different forces that formed the structure of the conflict.

2009, Historical Migration of the Lau , digital print on satin, 250cm x 100cm