Visible voices of asylum seekers : the art of Vietnamese boatpeople in Hong Kong

Sophia Suk-mun LAW

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Art, as a kind of visual language, can substitute what language is unsuited. This is particular true for people who are undoing extreme adversity. In the late 1980s, there were as many as 50,000 Vietnamese asylum seekers living in detention camps in Hong Kong. These people lived in a prison-like environment with a bleak sense of hope, bearing various fears and tragic memories. The psychological and physical sufferings of these asylum seekers were so complex and indescribable that the voices of their inner world often got muted. Between 1989 and 1991, a 3-year art project funded by UN was conducted in these detention camps. Over 800 pieces of works done by the inmates of all ages were collected. This paper examines selected images from this collection for the muted voices of these people. It demonstrates how these images can act as visual testimonies of asylum seekers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-93
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Humanities and Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • asylum seekers
  • refugee art
  • detention camps
  • image writing visual testimony
  • collective memories


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