In 2017-2018 Feral Studio visited Asia to research ways in which artists, arts organisations and community projects are addressing challenges faced by rural communities. Findings revealed a pertinence to the rural context in the South West include ageing rural populations, the decline of farming, the connection between urban and rural contexts and community engagement.
During the research period we connected with organisations and projects in Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. These include Yoshino Cedar House, Jatiwangi Art Factory, Kamiyama AIR, Sangwoodgoon, Satoyami Mirai and The Land Foundation.
The research trip was part funded by the Arts Council's Artists' International Development Fund and forms part of wider research into international rural practice that has been conducted by Feral Studio over the last few years.
We are grateful for support from the following contributors:
Arief Yudi Rahman, Loranita Damayanti, Arie Syarifuddin, Ismal Muntaha, Ayako Oki, Rei Maeda, Fram Kitagawa, Keiko Kudo, Kazuhiro Takeuchi, Ayumi Kawano, Eri Takasu, Ikuko Miyatani-Axiak, Mitsuyasu Omotani, Teruichi Ishibashi, Natalie Lo Lai Lai, Sedhapong Kirativongkamchon, Pisithpong Siraphisut, Po-Chih Huang, Maureen.
Sangwoodgoon is described by its founders as a ‘place for growing fresh vegetables as well as new forms of community with the belief that organic farming is critical to social movements and overthrowing mediocre government’. The initiative was borne out of the Anti-Express Rail and Choi Yuen Village Movement, a movement opposing the Hong Kong section of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, China. The objections included the immense cost, the impact on the environment and specifically in the case of Sangwoodgoon, the destruction of the farming community of Choi Yuen Tsuen in Yuen Long.
On the Sangwoodgoon plot of land in Yuen Long in the New Territories of Hong Kong organic farming is practiced and rice is grown here as well as various vegetables such as aubergines, beans, tomatoes, beetroot, sweetcorn and carrots. Besides growing food, a programme of additional activity has emanated from the interests of the collective of members, made up of cultural workers, artists and educators, who were predominantly all new entrants to farming. Activities have included a farming film festival, photography workshops, design projects with schools and universities as well as collaborating on a HK Farmers Almanac.
The emergence of Sangwoodgoon coincides with a wider farming movement that has emerged in response to the unique food challenges faced by Hong Kong, such as its overreliance on imports, which is said to account for over 90% of its food supply. It also connects with activism that has been inspired by a battle for land rights and the preservation of villages. While Sangwoodgoon and other farming initiatives including the urban farming project HK Farm (led by Michael Leung) and Mapopo Community Farm won’t solve the issue of over reliance on imported food together they are playing a role in communicating the value of locally produced food and connecting communities much more closely with food production.