Courage Piece is a project conceived by Rachel Yan and I at the invitation to create a conversational art piece for as part of a one-day exhibition, One Day, at Hong Kong Baptist University’s colonial building in November 2013.

We wanted to see how we can connect with strangers on a deeper level, and be able to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone to pursue a path that they find difficult to but may have an inner yearning for. This seems to be a common challenge globally but even more in Hong Kong, where traditional Chinese values including seeking security above all else in life makes many people find it challenging to follow their heart. It is a pity as we are a society which is abundant with resources, good education and people should in theory have a lot more choices than others.

Looking at verbs describing the goal for this, e.g. “empower”, “encourage”, “enlighten”, we came to see that empower is em-power, encourage is en-courage, and enlighten is en-lighten, the act of giving power, giving courage and giving a sense of light. That led us to the idea of “courage”.

Part of the notes from our creation process, when we decided on using the idea of courage
Part of the notes from our creation process, when we decided on using the idea of courage.

That’s how I defined courage at the time, still rings true today: having courage (勇氣)is stepping out of one’s comfort zone, letting go of the sense of security to follow the heart and embrace uncertainty.

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The Courage Piece, calligraphy by Rachel Yan

Then we came up with the idea of using Chinese chess as a tool to open people up for conversation, and make courage as a new piece in the game. We would ask people sitting across where they would like the put the Courage Piece, where it would move and function, and open them up to sharing their own courageous experience. We believe that the best way to encourage is not from outside, but from within, through revisiting one’s own courageous experience.

To wrap up, we also ask people to draw out their own character/ visual representation of courage.

We had deep conversations with individuals who shared with us their courage stories, which were inspiring and gave me a lot of courage.

Photos from the One Day exhibition can be found here.

This work is very close to my heart, especially when I was personally needing a lot of courage to step out of my comfort zone, to leave my job, and go to Colombia, this trip to learn about bottom-up urbanism and to immerse myself in a drastically different culture, which I have been thinking about for more than a year.

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Booth set up asking people to “share your courage” at the Impact Hub in Bogota, Colombia, 2014.
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Conducting Courage Piece on the streets of Bogota, Colombia in 2014.

Eventually I finally did quit my job, and then went to Colombia, where I continued to collect stories from people, which made up some of the most memorable moments in the trip. You can find more stories on Courage Piece on its facebook page.

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