To build a city of culture

As Art Macao continues in full swing, one of its chief organizers, Mok Ian Ian, President of Macao Cultural Affairs Bureau, provides some unique insights on how to host such a grand event and build a ‘cultural city’.

Q: Art Macao is well under way. Could you tell us something about this unique large-scale arts and cultural event?
A: Art Macao is organized by the Cultural Affairs Bureau and the Macao Government Tourist Office, and co-organized by the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau and the Higher Education Bureau, under the patronage of the Secretariat for Social Affairs and Culture. Six leading integrated resorts, Nam Kwong Group, and five foreign consulates in Hong Kong and Macao are also invited to participate in the event. This is a city-wide festival promoted by the government and with joint contribution from all walks of life.

In particular, “Art Macao International Art Exhibition”, the festival’s key featured event, has pioneered a new mode of cooperation: six major integrated resorts and Nam Kwong Group have been invited to put some of their works in the Macao Museum of Art, which serves as the main venue for the grand exhibition. Meanwhile, each participating organization is having a distinct exhibition in its own properties, while several consulates are hosting exhibitions and outdoor art installations.

These are resulting in a festival that embodies the spirit of cooperation and wide scope of offerings spread throughout the city. There has never been an event here packed with activities of such a variety and covering so broad a range.

Q: Please recall your highlights from the preparatory work at the Cultural Affairs Bureau. What has been the biggest challenge for the city-wide art event? And what have you found most comforting?

A: What impressed me most was the first time I heard Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng talking about the concept of Art Macao. My first feeling was excitement, because my professional sensitivity told me that it would be another excellent opportunity to improve the city’s cultural image and promote the development of its cultural industry. However, I also recognized that this would be a challenging task for the Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Art Macao has achieved three unprecedented breakthroughs: firstly, the event lasts for a long period, about half a year; secondly, the event consists of a large number of activities and categories, with a total of 41 activities staged at 55 locations throughout the city; thirdly, there have been numerous enthusiastic participants, including many government departments, enterprises, foreign consulates in Hong Kong and Macao, artists, curators, citizens and tourists alike.

It is exactly because of the wide scope that the relevant planning and coordination work has been such a challenge. Under the guidance of the Secretariat for Social Affairs and Culture and with the support from all partners, the Cultural Affairs Bureau has brought into play the warm and emotional synergy of the workteam.

We have made great efforts to build the overall brand image, develop an overall publicity plan, coordinate the relevant activity arrangements of all the participating organizations, and made overall arrangements for the launch of a series of tasks, resulting in a good start.

I am full of gratitude and joy for the opportunity to be involved in organizing Art Macao.

Q: What was the motivation for Macao to hold such an arts and cultural festival?

A: Looking back at history, one can find that many great cities have developed in a similar way. On the basis of substantial economic development, they simply made use of this advantage to attract a host of cultural elites to actively promote local art development.

Macao has followed the same path. It has built many art and cultural festival brands such as Macao International Music Festival, Macao Arts Festival, Macao City Fringe and “Encounter in Macao: Arts and Cultural Festival between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries” to promote the art development through intensive cultural exchanges and cooperation.

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan, released earlier this year, has given Macao a new mission of “building an exchange and cooperation base with Chinese culture as the mainstream and diverse cultures co-existing”.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to the motherland, enhance the connotation of Macau as a “World Tourism and Leisure Center”, the city-wide arts and cultural festival Art Macao came into being. The good thing about these big festivals is that they get more people involved.

The 41 activities of Art Macao are interrelated, forming a huge interactive network, allowing more people to have access to artworks and enjoy the beauty of cultural creativity, a new spark of creativity in cultural exchanges, thereby opening up broader development space for the local cultural industry. This is an example of the mutual promotion and transformation between cultural diversity and economic diversity.

Q: As Art Macao offers so many colorful activities, which would you recommend most?

A: “Art Macao International Art Exhibition” is the festival’s core activity, the main exhibition, yet all the exhibitions at various hotels and foreign consulates in Hong Kong and Macao, as well as many outdoor art installations, are worth watching.

There are many high-level and diversified arts and cultural activities, after the summer vacation and beyond, the concert and performing arts will be the highlights, including the ongoing “Reminiscences of the Silk Road – Exhibition of Cultural Relics of the Western Xia Dynasty”, which displays a number of magnificent and rare treasures of the dynasty, reminiscent of the elegance of the ancient country.

In August, in addition to “Ling Jing Fang Xin – Nanjing Museum Collection of Works by Chen Zhifo”, which is being held in cooperation with Nanjing Museum, concerts and performing arts will be the highlights of this period.

They include Macao Orchestra’s and Macao Chinese Orchestra’s closing concerts for the 2018-2019 music season, and opening concerts for 2019-2020, followed by dance drama Under Siege by Yang Liping which has been given an extra run because of the overwhelming response from the audience and Haojiang Moonlight, an annual Mid-Autumn festival, Dance Drama “Thangka”from Qinghai province is launched this year, which reflect the innovative style and achievements coming out of tradition.

Q: Could you tell us your views on “building an exchange and cooperation base with Chinese culture as the mainstream and diverse cultures co-existing”?

A: The Greater Bay Area plan has set this as the strategic positioning for Macao’s cultural development, in which special attention should be paid to the relationship between “Chinese culture” and “diverse cultures”. In Macao, people of different ethnic groups live together in harmony and respect each other despite their use of different languages; architectures of varied styles can coexist in a perfect match, and different customs can prevail in an inclusive manner.

People here can express their own opinions, freely choose their pursuits, fully hold on to their views and set free their imagination as they like. Regardless of the richness and diversity of Macao culture, its “root” or “DNA” is Chinese. The spirit of “harmony in diversity” and “harmonious yet different” is by itself an externalization of the core connotation of Chinese culture. It is this state of long-term coexistence and mutual learning between “Chinese culture” and “diverse cultures” that gives Macao inclusive cultural foundations.

As the center for cultural exchanges between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, Macao has successfully held“Encounter in Macao: Arts and Cultural Festival between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries”for two consecutive years, and has opened a cultural and art exchange mechanism between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. The second session of this event will serve as a key program during the first “Cultural and Art Festival of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” to be held for the first time this year.

Macao is gradually bringing the achievements of cultural exchanges between China and Portuguese-speaking countries into the construction of the “cultural bay area”, giving full play to the advantages of the long-term integration and coexistence of Chinese and western cultures, enriching the connotation of cultural exchanges in the region, and expanding the influence of Macao as a platform for cultural exchanges and cooperation.

Art Macao, on the basis of the platform for cultural exchanges and cooperation, is trying to help build Macao into a “well-known cultural city with art museums and art parks all over the territory”, with the government’s promotion, enterprise support, artist engagement as well as citizens’ and tourists’ participation.

Culture is enriched by communications. I am confident that the world will soon see a more beautiful and cultural Macao!