Xyza Cruz Bacani is a Filipina documentary photographer whose works and story has been featured in the New York Times Lens Blog, CNN and other international media. While working as a migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong for almost a decade, she used photography to raise awareness about under-reported stories on migrants and human rights issues.
Curated by Melissa Karman Lee, We Are Like Air is the public presentation of the WMA Commission project.Xyza, who used to be a domestic worker herself, reclaims the story of the migrant worker that has been told countless times by others. She is telling their own tale - not as victims, but as champions who have overcome many hardships in life. The exhibition portrays the experience of millions of mothers, daughters and families whose lives have been disrupted by migration. The exhibition title, We Are Like Air, comes from the idea that migrant workers are treated like air – invisible but important.
Photo Printing supported by: FUJIFILM
Programme supported by: Bethune House,Guhit Kulay,HER Fund
Xyza Cruz Bacani (b.1987) is a Filipina documentary photographer based in Hong Kong who uses her work to raise awareness about under-reported stories. Having worked as a second-generation domestic worker in Hong Kong for almost a decade, she is particularly interested in the intersection of migrant domestic workers and human rights. She is a Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellow in 2015, has exhibited worldwide, and won awards in photography. She is also the recipient of a resolution (HR No.1969) that was passed by the Philippines House of Representatives in her honour. Xyza is one of Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders in 2018, the WMA Commission recipient (2016/17), a Pulitzer Center grantee, and an Open Society Moving Walls grantee in 2017. She is one of the BBC’s 100 Women of the World 2015, 30 Under 30 Women Photographers 2016, Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016, and a FUJIFILM Ambassador.
Melissa Karmen Lee is the Education and Public Programmes Curator at Tai Kwun Heritage and Arts Centre, Hong Kong. Her experience primarily consists of curating beyond the exhibition space through pedagogical and public practice. In July 2018, she organised and conceived of ‘Summer Institute’, an inaugural programme where three distinguished scholars and one contemporary artist led seminars and public lectures on the theme of Labour and Privilege, explored through art historical and contemporary art case studies. In 2014-2015, she was the curator at large projects with Slought Foundation, Philadelphia in which she curated a series of ‘On the Cloud’ exhibitions included a newly commissioned work ‘Bozo on the Boom Boom Badass Beat’, performed online and in a gallery space by digital artists Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. This exhibition was contextualised in a curatorial essay alluding to Sherry Turkle’s Life on the Screen. A second ‘cloud’ exhibition entitled ‘Add Oil Machine’ was about the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Movement and the revolutionary potential of language and enunciation contextualised with Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature. She has been an invited and keynote speaker at panels including Sharjah Art Foundation March Meetings (2015), ‘Women in the Arts’ at the Asia Society Museum, Hong Kong (2013), and the ‘Arts Writers Convening’ at the The Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation, Philadelphia (2011). She gave a TEDX Hong Kong talk entitled ‘Translating the Human Experience’ (2013). Previously, Lee was a Senior Lecturer on faculty at the English Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The WYNG Media Award (WMA) is a series of non-profit programmes developed to spark discussions of social issues of great importance to Hong Kong through visual images, with a view to fostering positive change in the society. Each year, a theme is chosen for the programmes. Past themes explored included “Poverty”, “Air”, “Waste”, “Identity”, “Mobility” and “Transition”. The theme for the 2018/19 cycle is “Opportunity”.
The WMA Commission is committed to programmes and activities that foster deeper understanding of issues facing Hong Kong. The grant brings focus to the issue of the annual social relevant theme through photographic artistic means introducing new perspective and expanding public awareness and knowledge. It presents the opportunity to explore the particularities of this global issue as it specifically relates to Hong Kong.