; ; 17 May 2017

The Decline of Dai Pai Dong and Street Food Hawkers

in Mong Kok, Hong Kong, after the 1997 Handover by Vivien Chan

Image by Seo Hye Lee and Vivien Chan

My historiographical essay was looking at the decline of street food stalls and hawkers in Hong Kong from 1997 to the present day. This topic began as a question to my parents – I knew I wanted to research Hong Kong, so I asked them what had been the most significant change to them in Hong Kong in the last decade. They said that they were most affected by the decline of dai pai dong, a type of street food stall that was most used by the poorest communities in Hong Kong. The proposal for the essay was further highlighted by the Chinese New Year protests in February; these were fuelled by police intervention of street food hawkers who sell their food over the holiday, illegally. The streets of Mong Kok spent the night under fire from both sides, with Hong Kong’s press uncovering violence from both sides.

For Sooner, or later I wanted to bring out the architectural landscape of Hong Kong, how the urban landscape is composed of interwoven layers of concrete, steel and glass, but interrupted by an image of dai pai dong, a haphazard combination of materials that cuts through the landscape. Seo Hye Lee and I collaborated on a collage from images from the Hong Kong 90s film Made in Hong Kong by Fruit Chan. The two sides reflected two ways of seeing – one from above and another from street level. Our outcome became an exciting, confusing, and quite bleak set of images, reflecting the anxiety of the time of the Handover in 1997 and the undercurrent of distrust in contemporary Hong Kong.

Sooner, or later is a collection of visual essays by History of Design MA students at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal College of Art. The submissions reflect and refract the research undertaken for an historiographical essay in spring 2016. This project was developed in order to push the boundaries of the essay format through collaboration with other schools at the RCA. The essay brief invited students to write a critical historio­graphy of design change in a category of objects or a design process. The brief tested the ability to: identify patterns of historical change; evaluate different explanations for change; and analyse the social, cultural, gendered, ideological and technological reasons for design change. Sooner, or later is an unbound, risograph-printed publication in burgundy and fluorescent pink. Contributors were given 0.25 square metres, or two sides of A3, with which to cultivate and interrogate their historio­graphical research. Most of the visual essays are the result of collabo­rations with other students at the Royal College of Art.
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