Exhibition explores family history through the eye of a lens

PHOTOGRAPHER Kurt Tong explores the entwined histories of China and Britain in a new exhibition at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum next month.

Kurt Tong bThe Queen, The Chairman and I has been described by Tong as a photographic Who Do You Think You Are?, the result of a four-year exploration of his personal connections to Hong Kong, China and Britain, and the impact of Chinese and British relations on his family.

Tong's paternal grandfather left Shanghai in 1911 and headed to Hong Kong, lured by better job prospects in the British colony, while his mother's family arrived in Hong Kong from China, escaping Mao's Communist forces.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Tong sang the British National Anthem at school and eventually came to Britain to further his education.

The Queen, The Chairman and I combines large-scale photographs, rare colour film footage from the 1940s and heirloom photographs, together with Tong's artist book which he compiled during the project.

Discussing the inspiration for both the exhibition and its title, Tong said: "I traced the history of my family in a bid to find out how two of the most influential people in history, Queen Victoria and Chairman Mao, affected my family.

"Giving equal importance to new photographs, found photographs and writing, this project reconnects me with the Hong Kong of the past through the recollections of my extended family, humanising the political and social upheaval which took my family to Hong Kong and eventually the United Kingdom."

A Chinese teahouse installation plays a central role in the exhibition, providing a place for visitors to drink tea, read the artist's book and share family stories.

A traditional Chinese tea ceremony takes place at the Art Gallery and Museum at 12 noon, 12.45pm and 1.30pm every Friday during the exhibition, which runs from 18 September to 27 October.

Cllr Sebastian Lowe, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for growth and investment, said: "Kurt Tong has won the prestigious Luis Valtuena Humanitarian Photography Award and has exhibited across the world, so we're delighted to welcome his latest work to Rugby."

For more information about exhibitions and events at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, visit www.ragm.co.uk 

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