Shell with Hong Kong Harbor Scene

Step 3 of 4

A Man with His Son on a Boat

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In the foreground of the shell painting we see a man and a boy on a boat, probably a father with his son. Their ship differs from the larger steam engines and sailing ships on the water. It is a small traditional vessel, one of those in which indigenous people live. Hong Kong is a cultural melting pot with a majority of Cantonese inhabitants and ethnic minorities consisting of people from Hakka, Punti, Tanka and Hoklo descent. Among them, particularly the Tanka are associated with a boat-based lifestyle, while the Hoklo’s traditional dress includes a strikingly blue shirt. The man and the boy in the shell painting seem to combine Tanka habits, Hoklo clothes and Cantonese hairstyles. They are not identifiable as belonging to any of the population groups, but clearly represent local lifestyle. The man looks at the water while smoking a pipe in a relaxed mood, but we can safely assume that regardless of whether he used his boat for peddling or fishing, he had to work hard to provide for his family. Different types of Hong Kong vessels, of which we see some in the Victoria Harbor panorama, were also individually portrayed in painting albums [cf]