These ‘Shop Cats’ In Hong Kong Will Make You Smile

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #5, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #18, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

After decades of living with cats, Dutch photographer Marcel Heijnen found himself in Hong Kong without one to call his own. Then he met Dau Ding. And Ah Dai, and Siu Faa, and Fei Zai, the shop cats of the Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan neighborhoods.

Local Hong Kong store owners, Heijnen realized to his delight, have a habit of taking in cats as friends and also as coworkers. The cats keep out the mice and protect the edible inventory, and in return, they are fed and given a safe and cozy place to sleep.

Many of the cats were rescued from the streets by the shop keepers, and others chose their new homes of their own volition, tempted by the smells and warmth of an indoor home.

Siu Faa, whose name means “little flower” in English, was initially never supposed to stay in the store, but she never gave up on making it her home. After she caught some particularly pesky mice, Siu Faa was allowed to stay. She is now much beloved by her people.

In the cats of Hong Kong, the photographer found a sense of community and belonging. The furry shopkeepers were what he calls his “excuse” to approach the owners of the stores and start conversations. In some ways, they became his little guides to his new home.

In her introduction to Heijnen’s book Hong Kong Shop Cats, Catharine Nicol traces the bond between these cats and their people back over the millennia to the days when humans first diverged from the nomadic lifestyle. When we settled down, cats settled with us. In Egypt, they were mummified like people when they passed away, and in Japan, maneki-neko, or the Lucky Cat, served as a beacon of good fortune.

These days, the shop cats of Hong Kong have also become the harbingers of good things. Dau Ding, the very first shop cat Heijnen met when he moved, has quite a following in the local community. Customers show up expecting to be greeted by the playful, affectionate cat, and they return to visit him.

Hong Kong Shop Cats isn’t simply a cultural study; it’s a lyrical ballad to the strange and ineffable spark of friendship that can only form between humans and their animals.

Ah Dai, for instance, was initially purchased by his shop owner to keep out the mice, but somewhere along the way, he decided he no longer wanted to hunt. Of course, the owner still kept him, and recently, Ah Dai took on the role of watching over him and keeping him company when he was sick.

Master calligrapher Taiyuan Sensan has a hand in Heijnen’s book, as does poet Ian Row, who penned haikus specifically to match the photographs. The poems are mostly about food and naps, but they’re also about the various existential thoughts that must run through the feline mind.

Perhaps the best one is also the simplest, a tribute to the tender ties that bind a shop owner and his cat: “An easy silence / Years of practice and knowing / I know him by heart.”

Blue Lotus Gallery presents a pop-up exhibition and book launch for Hong Kong Shop Cats from December 9th to 11th, 2014. The artist will be present for signings on the 9th from 6:00-9:00 PM. The pop-up show will be on view at ZZHK Gallery, and prints and books can be purchased following the event at Blue Lotus Gallery. Books can be purchased here.

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #20, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

m-heijnen-hk-shop-cats-48© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #48, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #39, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #6, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #17, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #19, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #22, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #25, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #28, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #30, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #34, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #37, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #46, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #69, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #59, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #63, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

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© Marcel Heijnen, ‘Hong Kong Shop Cats’ #64, Hong Kong 2016, Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong

The post These ‘Shop Cats’ In Hong Kong Will Make You Smile appeared first on Feature Shoot.

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