This Former Domestic Worker's Stunning Photographs Are on Exhibition in Hong Kong

This look into the lives of Hong Kong’s domestic workers is informed by Xyza Cruz Bacani’s own experiences as a second-generation migrant domestic worker.

Air is both invisible and vital. Few individuals ever take time to think about what fuels their every breath, and yet its absence is impossible to ignore. Air is ever-important, but hardly noticed.

Xyza Cruz Bacani, photographer and one of Asia Society’s 2018 Asia 21 Young Leaders, likens overseas domestic workers to the essential element in her solo exhibition, We Are Like Air, which opens to the public on December 1, 2018, at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. The exhibit is the public presentation of the WYNG Media Award Commission Project, and is curated by Melissa Karmen Lee.

This look into the lives of Hong Kong’s domestic workers is informed by Bacani’s own experiences as a second-generation migrant domestic worker, having followed in her mother’s footsteps over a decade ago. Her work brings their oft-unseen lives to the forefront, an intimate examination of their perspectives, their struggles, and their joys.


We Are Like Air is not only about illuminating the pain and survival of living abroad and from economic urgency leaving your loved ones an ocean away,” Lee says. “This exhibition is also about the celebration of very tangible friendships and intimate connections of which they blossom or grow in astonishing places between unexpected people.”

Bacani’s images have earned her numerous accolades and achievements, including a Pulitzer Center grant, an Open Society Moving Walls grant, and a Philippines House of Representatives resolution (HR No.1969) passed in her honor. She was also named one of BBC’s 100 Women of the World in 2015, 30 Under 30 Women Photographers in 2016, and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia in 2016.

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In between photographs of Filipinas getting dressed for community-organized beauty pageants, protests calling attention to grievous human rights violations against migrant workers, and the bittersweet view from her mother’s window, Bacani’s work in We Are Like Air demands viewers to face the humanity of a demographic that is too often invisible.

And, perhaps, calls upon us to reflect upon how we see—or unsee—the domestic workers we depend on back home.

We Are Like Air runs from December 1 to 20, 2018, at the Hong Kong Arts Centre at 2 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

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