Ivan Ma isn't just known as a master of "face-changing" (bian lian) — an ancient Chinese art often used in Sichuan operas — he's also a man on a mission to bring back disappearing cultural traditions.
Wai's Mask Illusion Entertainment Company provides a platform showcasing talents from across the city, and corporates are warming up to the cultural idea, incorporating these unique activities into their events, exhibitions and creative team-building workshops.
“Our activities have Hong Kong special Chinese cultural activities, with lots of influence from the 80s and 90s,” Ma explained. “We set up a special place for tourists and locals — corporates included — to experience and learn more about craftsmanship and to even try it themselves in workshops."
Folk handicrafts include sugar painting, silhouette cutting, calligraphy, zodiac paper cutting, flour dolls and folding dried grass grasshoppers, to name a few. Each activity is performed by an expert and can be booked for events. The website lists specifications for each performance and provides an interactive approach to events.
One of the vendors, Ruth Fok, who runs Ruth Chinese Rainbow Calligraphy, focuses on teaching, performing and customising Chinese calligraphy products — going beyond the traditional red and/or gold hues.
“First, we use three colours — red, yellow and blue — to paint like a rainbow, and then we add Chinese auspicious patterns such as birds, fish, flowers, dragons, and phoenixes."
Fok recently filmed a new year clip for the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, introducing rainbow calligraphy. Other clients include Hennessy at Duty Free Macau, Cathay Pacific and Whampoa Fashion World. Fok also recently hosted a canteen staff performance at Ocean Park Marriott Hotel.
Ma's cultural workshops, meanwhile, have catered for branded clients in Pacific Place, Lee Gardens, The Landmark, Canton Road, 1881 Heritage, Peninsula Hotel and more. Many of these events were booked for the Chinese New Year holiday.
Popular bookings include the face-changing performance, spring and craft souvenir making, and traditional snack making, such as egg puffs and rice pudding. These can be booked as performances or workshops – or both.
After more than 30 years in the industry, Ma encourages other local craftspeople across the city to continue to pursue their passions and make videos online to demonstrate their skills.
Fok is of a similar stance, adding that "the pandemic has greatly affected all walks of life, especially the tourism industry. We hope to be rich in local culture – these local arts can bring some special features to Hong Kong, so that more people will know this folk craft that is about to disappear".