There is a small art installation in Hong Kong that is less visible than the iconic “Umbrella Man” sculpture, “Lennon Wall,” and the “Mr. & Little Miss HK” cartoons, but perhaps best captures the pro-democracy protesters’ plight.
55 eggs, each with its own unique “face,” are stacked up in a neat Pascal’s triangle on the upper left hand corner of a rectangle styrofoam board. Two red-and-brown bricked “walls” stand a short distance from the eggs, blocking their way forward.
Titled “Eggs and High Wall,” the installation represents Hongkongers’ determination in their demands for genuine universal suffrage from their government and the Chinese communist regime.
Artist Little something explains in a Facebook post that the eggs, representing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters, may be fragile and vulnerable on their own, but united, they will have the strength to surmount the “high wall” of Beijing’s unwillingness to grant democratic reforms outlined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
“This past month, we Hong Kong-loving ‘eggs’/Faced pepper sprays, tear gas, police batons, violence, seen our reputations sullied, and have been unfairly treated/But we remain fearless… and will persevere in our different ways but with the same goal/Till the day we topple the ‘high wall.’,” Little something writes.
“Hongkongers, together we can make it!”
Little something’s installation is a solid work of art which borrows the poetic and ingenious imagery of eggs facing a wall from critically acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
Murakami, who is famous for penning magical realism novels dealing with themes of individuals’ search for freedom in society, was awarded the Israel’s top Jerusalem Prize in 2009.
In his acceptance speech, Murakami said: “If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals . . . We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs. We have no hope against the wall: it’s too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us — create who we are. It is we who created the system.”
Back then, Murakami’s presence in Israel and his speech was especially controversial because of the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he defended his actions, claiming: “Like most novelists, I like to do exactly the opposite of what I’m told… So I chose to see. I chose to speak here rather than say nothing.”
Clearly, the 65-year-old running enthusiast is not afraid to speak his mind on contentious matters — Murakami recently told Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun that Japan should shoulder responsibility for its actions in World War II and the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster — but he has been silent thus far on the student-led Umbrella Movement.
Interestingly, Murakami touched on the 1960s Japan student movements in his hugely popular novel, “Norwegian Wood” (1987), where he portrayed the student activists as a hypocritical and indecisive lot.
Murakami’s “egg and high wall” analogy also shows up in the lyrics of Hong Kong Cantopop singer Kay Tse’s 2014 song, “Egg and Lamb.”
According to Tse, people can either choose to be an egg, “smashing against a rock wall/Unafraid of the consequences, not backing down” or a “submissive white lamb… trapped in a ranch.”
Because “Egg and Lamb” was fortuitously released a day before Hong Kong’s annual July 1 pro-democracy march, it was hailed as a “democracy song” due to its perceived message of defiance against authority.
The song quickly became a Youtube hit, reaching more than a million views two weeks after its release.
However, the song’s producers have insisted that “Egg and Lamb” was inspired by 2014 Academy Awards Best Film “12 Years a Slave,” and wasn’t written with the current Hong Kong political situation in mind.
Given the popularity of “Egg and Lamb,” it is very likely that Little something also meant to reference the “misinterpreted” song in her work.
But without a doubt, the art piece “Egg and High Wall” is a very apt analogy and commentary of the present predicament facing Occupy Central student protesters: Vulnerable “eggs” banding together and steadfastly holding out against the Hong Kong government and Chinese communist regime “high wall.”