Artist Sophia Hotung Releases The Hong Konger Anthology
Hong Kong/ Nomads/

The Release of the Hong Konger Anthology: Sophia Hotung's Answer to a True Hong Kong Identity

Sophia Hotung, the disabled Eurasian artist behind the famed “Hong Konger” series, a parody collection of subverted New Yorker magazine covers to frame issues in the city, is set to release a book featuring 70 of her favourite illustrated “Hong Konger” covers.

“The Hong Konger Anthology” features a collection of Hotung’s “Hong Konger” covers alongside a series of thoughtful and satirical poems that subvert and adapt elements of well-known Western and Chinese poetry, similar to her “Hong Konger” in satirizing and adapting the New Yorker covers.

Her book, which is set to be released on Dec. 1 online and at a flagship event at Bookazine on Dec. 4 in Central, is “a celebration of Hong Kong’s melting pot of synthesized international and local influences.”

“This is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid, to do it is exciting; it’s amazing how far along people will come with you if you just do it,” Sophia said in an interview with The Beat Asia.

“The Hong Konger Anthology” is Sophia’s first venture into the city’s literary industry, a project self-funded and published by the former analyst turned artist.

The anthology book is structured into three main components: the art prints, the poems, and Sophia’s artist’s notes.

The 70 prints of the “Hong Konger” cover feature full-scale on single pages, with QR codes tagged in the bottom right corner of each page to guide readers to the original New Yorker , covers for a cross-comparison. Each “Hong Konger” cover includes the exact date of each New Yorker published in the U.S., an ode, and a directory to analyse both side-by-side.

After each print follows a poem written by Sophia, adapted from or inspired by popular and most favourite Western and Chinese poets – “Billy Joel, Li Bai, William Blake.”

Her “Hong Konger” posters reference “silly and fun, rude, deep and emo” poems from poets such as Su Shi, Wen Tingjun, William Shakespeare, Adrienne Rich, John Keats, Yue Fu, Bysshe Shelley, and T.S. Eliot.

“There are fewer and fewer people reading [in Hong Kong] and hardly any people reading poetry,” Sophia says, pointing out how literature is explored only academically not for the sole pleasure of reading. “Part of the book launch is to get people excited into poetry and inspired. The poems I wrote were formative in my childhood in Hong Kong."

“Poems are a great avenue to diversify your tone without being inconsistent.”

A paragraph in the first section of her book, “How To Read This Book,” reads “much like how a handful of New Yorker covers inspired my ‘Hong Kongers,’ a handful of well-known poetry inspired my poems.”

Her poems don’t include punctuation noticeably, an attempt to “do away with punctuation in the same way that ancient Chinese poetry does."

With the main theme of the book and an answer to eager fans querying Sophia about the intentions behind changes in the New Yorker covers for her series, each cover is paired with an artist note by Sophia about the hidden messages, meanings, and motifs of the prints and accompanying poems.

“Sometimes my readers and Instagram fans can understand my main message of the posters, other times people get the complete wrong end of the stick when they look at a [Hong Konger] poster. I find it quite amusing when people have different interpretations of it,” Sophia says.

Her artist interpretations act as a guide for uncovering the prescribed meaning to what each New Yorker means to her.

The prints are ordered according to a narrative created by Sophia where “relevant or complementary prints, stories, and poems flow one after the other.” Covers have been selected by Sophia from her designated “Honger Konger” categories of women, work, politics, animals, food, heritage, family, nightlife, and leisure amongst the 70 plus covers she has illustrated.

The book is printed and bound by Regal Printing, a Kwai Chung-based printing house that has partnered with independent and corporate clients to print nonfiction and fiction books, school textbooks, religious texts, and company readings for 28 years.

Sophia Hotung began her New Yorker series initially as a joke. When suffering from a relapse in sickness due to her autoimmune diseases, Sophia was gifted an iPad by her mother on Christmas of 2020 to keep herself busy over the New Year’s. She started off with drawing simple doodles and sketches of old-age Hong Kong posters and then shifted to tracing old New Yorker magazine covers to both trains her motor skills again and to practice drawing.

Like any joke of hers, it got out of hand. After she posted one meme parody of a New Yorker magazine in spring 2021, her reception for the pieces took off. She started to draw more and expand the series. First, 12 for a calendar, and then 52 for a weekly roll. Now, Sophia’s collection boasts over 70 hand-drawn digital covers satirizing one of the most famous magazines in the world to create a unique Hong Konger collection.

In October 2021, Sophia debuted as one of Hong Kong’s newest modern artists at the premier Art Next Expo at Causeway Bay’s Lanson Palace Hotel. She stood amongst a collection of 500 posters, 65 artworks, and eight collector edition prints, representing herself and her parodic series to the public for the first time.

Her adaption of New Yorker covers to satirize and critique aspects of Hong Kong in society and culture and history has garnered the attention of Hong Kong’s finest art houses, with exhibitions held in Soho House, Eaton Hong Kong, TwentyCinco, The Wild Lot, and Lanson Place.

Sophia’s artistic influences rely heavily on her identity and ancestry as a Eurasian Hong Konger and a disabled woman. Sophia writes in the foreword of the book, “you’ll glean an identity crisis of what it means to be a Hong Konger who isn’t wholly Chinese or not wholly assimilated, what it means to be disabled when you’ve been fed the ‘h“hard work equals success’” narrative, what it means when those things intersect.”

The themes of ostracization and disability within the books “relate to anyone's sense of belonging and sense of futility.”

Through her writing and art, Sophia advocates for the lives and wellbeing of patients and workers with chronic illnesses, and subverts the ways we approach and discuss disability, gender, race, and socio-economic disparities in Hong Kong and abroad.

Sophia Hotung is set to launch “The Honger Konger Anthology” at Bookazine in Central on Dec. 4, 2021. From 3 to 4 PM, Sophia will be hosting a talk about the book, hosting a Q&A session, and book signings for fans. The event is free for all ages and RSVPs can be made through her website.

The limited-edition series of 500 copies of the anthology can be purchased directly on Sophia's website, at any Bookazine branch in Hong Kong, or via Amazon for international deliveries.

Subscribe to The Beat's newsletter to receive compelling, curated content straight to your inbox! You can also create an account with us for free to start bookmarking articles for later reading.

This Week's Events In Hong Kong View more

Sign up to receive updates on what's going on in the city. Don't miss out on exciting events, news, and more. Sign up today!

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice
Thank you for subscribing! Click here if you were not redirected.