How a Belgian nomad artist feels about life in Hong Kong

December 12, 2015 08:02
Phil Akashi, a Belgian adventurer who loves exploring world cultures, has been living in Hong Kong for the past two years. Photo: HKEJ

Some people opt to stay back and live in the land of their birth, while some make their way to foreign lands, sometimes just drifting into a particular place.

There's no right or wrong in whatever path one pursues. The only thing that is important is the experience that one gathers during the journey, says Phil Akashi, a Belgian adventurer who loves exploring world cultures.

After spending time in Los Angeles, Madrid, Wellington and Shanghai, Akashi is currently living in Hong Kong.

The self-proclaimed nomadic artist has mixed feelings about his temporary home.

"It's hard to imagine if I can live here till retirement," says Akashi, who finds the city's population density overly too high and also the pollution and noise somewhat irksome.

"What's worse is the cramped living spaces, which together with a hectic work pace, drives people nervous. All kinds of pressures radiate in the surroundings," he says.

When people don't have proper means to channel their emotions, they are more likely to develop a bad temper and take their anger on others, the artist says.

He cited growing conflicts between Hongkongers and the mainlanders as an example.

Being an outsider, Akashi admits that he may not be the right person to comment much on such matters, but says that he wants to see people stay rational.

"In the past five years, I had lived and worked in the mainland. China is a huge country with people from all walks of life. There are people who are highly educated while there are some who may be difficult to get along with. It's not fair to tar everyone with the same brush," he says.

The self-taught artist was fascinated by the aesthetic of Asian characters -- in languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean -- despite the fact that he couldn't decipher the text.

"I love using ink and seals for doing art creations," Akashi says.

Chinese seals have over two thousand years of history. Seal engraving has embodied calligraphy, painting and carving. Akashi is glad that he could immerse himself in the beautiful traditional arts.

The character of 囍, which literally means double happiness, is often the symbol for marriage. Akashi utilizes it to portray a complex web of relationships such as social ties and cultural elements that are taken into consideration before a marriage is agreed between two families.

"It is an unavoidable collectivism. People have to show mutual understanding as well as interdependence on each other," Akashi says.

He recalls that his upbringing under the care of his parents and grandparents was not strict. He and his younger sister enjoyed plenty of freedom as long as they were doing their best as promised.

Leaving home and heading to Asia was an initial decision for change.

At that time, Akashi thought he would like to escape from the pessimism prevailing in Europe, and gain inspiration and energy in Asia instead.

"I miss my family and friends. However, Europe is still caught in a pessimistic mood, where people have too much welfare and prefer less work.”

The recent attacks in Europe by Islamic State sympathizers have also troubled him. He says he finds the behavior of radical elements insane.

"It is not just Europe that is in danger, but also the rest of the world," he says. "They [terrorists] aim to stir up anger and feeling of vengeance.”

While the world faces challenges, ordinary citizens must stay strong and carry on with their normal lives, Akashi says, urging people not to give in.

The Belgian artist plans to return home for Christmas to meet his family and friends. He will head to Singapore next year for the next leg of his nomadic life.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 4.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Akashi likes using ink and seals for doing art creations. Photo: HKEJ
Akashi's artworks often feature bright colors or ancient Asian characters in black ink. Photo: HKEJ
Akashi isn't bothered too much about what people may think of him. The artist has even tried walking barefoot in busy Hong Kong streets. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong Economic Journal writer