Goodbye to Old Kowloon.


On the 6th July 1998 Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong was closed. Kai Tak was constructed close to Kowloon, a place that is steeped in history and notoriety. Kowloon used to be a Chinese military fort until the British Empire took Hong Kong in 1898.


When Kowloon experienced a population boom in the twentieth century it was transformed into a vibrant city. It became infamous for its tall skyscrapers, and the fact that it was directly on the flight path of the old airport. It also lead to an increase in international tourism.


Visitors were drawn to Kowloon to witness low approaching aircraft flying above them, however this soon became a fraught situation for the inhabitants. Some people who lived in the high rise apartments were perturbed by the rapid increase in flights. It was especially alarming that the flight path was so close that the passengers on the planes could see the residents watching television.


The authorities sought a practical solution and decided to utilise the island of Chek Lap Kok. The land was levelled, and a new international airport was constructed. However the planes and the streets of the old Kowloon city have entered a kind of folk memory, and a certain degree of nostalgia.


This nostalgia has imbued popular culture, especially within the culture of East Asia. The old Kowloon was a place that became particularly poignant in the Japanese psyche, owing to historical ties with China. The Japanese author and artist Masamune Shirow was haunted by these painful memories.


His manga novel “Ghost In The Shell” is part science fiction, part mystery thriller but mainly an elegy to a vanished world. It inspired the 1995 film adaptation, and it was a tremendous evocation of a ghostly city, which in his futuristic vision becomes overtaken by robots rather than humans.


In our contemporary world we are fixated by notions that are unique amongst humans rather than our animal counterparts. The human species has evolved intellectually and it is no longer consumed by a need to both survive, and then to reproduce. I believe that this is the reason behind these almost ultra modern notions about human biology and society. Human beings now have a precious sense about their individuality rather than as a collective and as recent events have shown, this has been a detriment to our progress.

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