Cover "Sham Shui Po is Still Sham Shui Po", pen and water colour on paper (Photo: Courtesy of Schoeni Projects)

Comic artist Li Chi Tak collaborates with Schoeni Projects for 'Sham Shui Po is Still Sham Shui Po', a map dedicated to exploring the historic neighbourhood

The comic industry in Hong Kong might not be as well-known today as it was in the past, overshadowed by the popularity of manga (Japanese comics) and manwha (Korean comics) or even the rise of webtoons. But Hong Kong comic artist Li Chi Tak is still staying true to the craft, his favourite form of storytelling. He's considered one of the most significant artists in Hong Kong and may well be considered a Hong Kong treasure himself.

He lends the visual language of his illustrations for the Schoeni Project's "Sham Shui Po is Still Sham Shui Po" project, a project that aims to encourage Hong Kongers to explore and re-discover the timeless charm of the district. The map highlights four suggested trails that exhibit an integration of the old and new of the neighbourhood, showcasing Sham Shui Po's multi-faceted wonders from shopping streets, local eateries to art communities.

Tatler sits down with Li Chi Tak about working with Schoeni Projects, his own memories of Sham Shui Po and how the comic industry has changed over the years.

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Can you tell us how you got involved with the "Sham Shui Po Is Still Sham Shui Po" project?

Nicole contacted me and shared her ideas of this Sham Shui Po project, to see if I was interested. We know each other since 2012 when she was director of Schoeni Art Gallery and held a group show that I was included in called Hong Kong Invisible: Exhibition by 15 Hong Kong Artists.

How do you feel about working with Schoeni Projects?

It has been great! In the beginning, I was a bit worried because I found reading the map quite difficult. But, no joke, this joint effort with Schoeni Projects really helped. It gave me a new perspective when looking at this place and this project. Everyone really did their very best, which made me feel very relieved.

Were there any challenges to creating the maps for this project?

Basically, when I was drawing the map, attention to the details is really needed. The locations had to be correct and clear which was a complex process for me. Patience was the key. Since I have a terrible sense of direction, it wasn’t easy for me.

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After joining this project...I got a better understanding of the changes that this old district has been undergoing and this is a very good challenge indeed
Li Chi Tak

What are some of the changes that Sham Shui Po has undergone that surprised you?

I was taken by surprise that Sham Shui Po has become such a trendy neighbourhood.

Do you have any personal memories of Sham Shui Po that stuck with you?

About 30 years ago, I was working near Cheung Sha Wan. Sometimes I would walk to Sham Shui Po. But in my memory, Sham Shui Po was so complicated and dense. My impression of the neighbourhood was that it was affordable and cheaper than elsewhere, regardless of whether it was food, clothing, toys, or computer supplies.

Over the past 10 years, my wife will constantly take me to the other side of Sham Shui Po, where all the fabric, ribbon and button shops are. And of course, another activity we did there was to eat at a noodle food stall that we'd come across. Their delicious food is on everyone’s must-eat list.

See also: Neighbourhood Guide: Where To Eat, Drink And Shop In Sham Shui Po

How is working on this project different from the ones you’ve done in the past?

This map is a painting but it also has a function, so it has to be realistic. That’s the biggest difference. It contains actual information and painting has always been about expression and creativity, so I had to add some interesting ideas on the map as well to reconcile with that.

How has the comic industry changed since you started?

I seem to have witnessed the greatest period of the Hong Kong comics industry but it has gradually slowed down. The skills and craftsmanship aren't really well-positioned in today’s mass-market world. In my eyes, comics as an art form of storytelling is still my favourite.

You’re well-known in the international comics scene as have had your work exhibited overseas, is the feeling different when working on a project in Hong Kong?

It's more or less the same. But people from overseas seem to respect art slightly more.

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Commissioning Li Chi Tak to create a map of the district is my way of paying homage to my home...and document the cultural heritage of Sham Shui Po before they potentially disappear
Nicole Schoeni, Schoeni Projects Founder

What do you hope people can take away from this project?

I agree with Nicole's idea for this project. I really hope that everyone will know more about Sham Shui Po and learn more about the other side of the neighbourhood.

What else is special about this project?

The map will be printed in 100 signed limited edition print and will up for sale for HK$ 1,000. Half of the proceeds will be donated to the Society for Community Organization (SoCO). I hope everyone will support it and also enjoy exploring Sham Shui Po through the map.

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"Sham Shui Po is Still Sham Shui Po" will be available as a printed version and digital version on Schoeni Project's website on June 2. You are encouraged to share your favourite must-visit places in Hong Kong on their Instagram and use the hashtag, #SSPisstillSSP to foster the mapping of the neighbourhood.

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