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Xyza’s ‘Modern Slavery’ series

01 June 2016

By William Elvin

Followers of Filipina photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani’s career will be pleasantly surprised by the subtlety and simplicity displayed in her latest solo exhibit in Hong Kong entitled ‘Modern Slavery’.
Patrons who have become accustomed to Bacani’s frantic black and white capturing of busy streets and people will find the silent and serene tone of the photographs refreshing.
It is also notable that although the artist has touched on abuse and slavery as subject matter in earlier exhibits, a more mature artistic layering and use of subtext dominate this deliberately low-key collection.
But whatever the technique, Bacani continues to present us with colorful stories through a simple palette of black, white, and gray.
The former domestic helper’s gallery presents human trafficking victims in New York, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Hong Kong in seemingly mundane situations. There are no depictions of actual abuse and horror, yet seeing the subjects and knowing their pain beyond the facade of ordinary activities such as socializing and participating in cultural and religious rituals give Bacani’s material more emotional power.
According to Bacani, the goal of the exhibit is to “humanize the global problem of human labor trafficking”.
By moving away from a direct and in-your-face approach to presenting the abuse victims, Bacani has succeeded in bringing to the forefront the beauty and vitality that could emerge from their experiences .
In the process, observers are able to connect and sympathize with the subjects, not because they have been bombarded by bloody and gory images, but because the victims still choose to be human – to still be among us -  despite the massive pain and abuse they must have endured.
‘Modern Slavery’is displayed at KONG Art Space in Villa Serene, 3 Staunton Street, Central from May 21 to June 10, and is sponsored by the U.S. Consulate and KONG Art Space. For inquries, please call 9887 9840.
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