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Plants of Retaliation and Serenity

"Because no one else does what I do," answered my grandpa in Cantonese when I asked him why, out of all hobbies, he chose horticulture. Gong-Gong's garden is home to azaleas that bloom flurries of pink, bush beans with luscious green leaves that tower over you in summer months, and treasured bonsais too precious to give away.

Every plant within the confines of worn wooden fences in the backyard of an otherwise unsuspecting house has its own story. One of these stories is the hand of insurgence. Carefully manipulated by Gong Gong's hands, this plant's branches are fashioned into a shape resembling a hand holding up five fingers. It signifies the demands of the Hong Kong people for "Five demands - not one less." Whenever Hong Kong returns to the front pages, I recall Gong-Gong's five-fingered plant, a powerful symbol of rebellion and art.

From the most flamboyant flowers to the symbolic plants, the lenses of my camera capture it all. Because English is not my grandpa's native tongue, within the meticulously written captions of each social media post displaying his work, I translate his oral knowledge into narratives of each plant that unite English and traditional Chinese. Using photography as an outlet, I am able to traverse the middle ground between the two worlds I live in. My photos are more than the plants they spotlight—each nook and cranny of the garden's alcoves are captured as a creative enterprise comes to life. Even though some of his plants may wither and grow old, the stories behind each one are forever encapsulated, displayed on a 3x6 digital screen. My grandpa’s green artistry is a testament of decades of dedication and an innate understanding of what brings him peace and joy. Shall each of us find what we love, we can all bring some of our own beauty, our own creations, into being.

Editors: Chris F., Nadine R.


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