Heads together: Forum on Cultural Industries (Macao) 2015

08 2015 | Issue 8

Text/Wong Io Man

The Forum on Cultural Industries (Macao) 2015, jointly organised by the Chinese Cultural Exchange Association and Institute for Cultural Industries, Peking University, was successfully held in May. Representatives from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, experts and scholars from around the world were invited, putting their heads together to brainstorm the future development for Macao’s creative and cultural industry.

Ieng Weng Fat, member of the Committee of Cultural Industries (CIC), participated in the forum and thought the forum was a great success. In-depth exchanges were facilitated, which is beneficial to the future of Macao’s creative and cultural industries. Ieng said: “One of the speeches that impressed me most was that by Li Yongping, former vice-mayor of Taipei city. She thought that Macao had to ‘return to its starting point’ to reflect on its position, and to ‘quiet down’ amid rapid development. For more than a decade since the handover of Macao and the booming of the gambling industry, we have been busy and a lot of things we have done are rather passive. How should the overall planning of Macao be like? What are the goals of Macao? These need time to ponder.”

Professor Sher Jih Hsin, director at the Centre for Asia-Pacific Cultural and Creative Studies, pointed out directly: “Creative and cultural products in Macao lack originality, and don’t have features to touch people’s hearts.” According to Ieng, experts at the forum also pointed out that the design is the core to cultural and creative industries. The United Kingdom, for example, attaches much importance to design. For the last century, all kinds of theories have been integrated with daily-use furniture in the United Kingdom, like ergonomics and allusions, forming a “double value”. “Therefore, some scholars think that the cultural and creative industries are about the experience. The audience does not need that much functionality, and this is where the cultural and creative industries’ value is demonstrated on the spiritual level. This sort of spiritual experience is interpreted through the stories behind the products.”

With regard to this point, many experts have raised all kinds of interesting suggestions for Macao: Since we are not able to find a position for Macao, why not call for proposals from the world on “What is Macao?” At the forum, Professor Lee Yong-koo of South Korea suggested to form a “story bank”. Ieng said: “A large portion of the cultural and creative industries is about ‘telling stories’. The industry is not purely about commercial products.”

On the other hand, Professor Xiang Yong, Vice Dean, The Institute for Cultural Industries, Peking University, emphasised that Macao is a platform but not a market. He said: “Macao’s population is too small for self-operation. Thus Macao should make good use of the selling platforms on the internet and set up global study centres to ‘nurture a batch of brains’, and attract masters from around the world with good offers.”

At the meetings, Xiang Yong also suggested that, “to change the perception of culture, one has to rationally recognise the difference between the positions of a cultural undertaking and the cultural industry, and at the same time pay attention to the integration of the two”. Ieng Weng Fat also gave his opinion on this: “Firstly, the cultural undertakings include matters commonly formed by a community, like world heritages. The government must lead the graduate civil participation. The aim is mainly to create social effects, making these undertakings a part of the Macao culture. Residents gradually recognise these historic cultures, and establish a sense of belonging. The culture industry refers to commercial activities that involve cultural contents, and they aim at generating commercial profits. How can cultural undertakings integrate with the cultural industry? The Department for the Promotion of Cultural and Creative Industries (DPICC, from the Portuguese acronym) under the Cultural Affairs Bureau is an important part. On the upper stream, the DPICC supports the industrialisation of cultural undertakings. The process of conversion takes place from an undertaking to an industry. I have always thought that the soul of cultural industries is literature. Macao must promote the development of literature substantially, and it doesn’t just happen overnight. The Macao population is limited, and it is necessary to import talents to develop our culture, thus strengthening our industry. Therefore, the cultural undertaking and cultural industry must know their mutual relation, and cannot be confused.”