December 28th, 2010

Meet the Plumber King

Posted in Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

Last summer I wrote about the Plumber King, who writes advertisements for his plumbing services in unusual corners of Hong Kong. Contractors usually promote themselves by scrawling their name, number and occupation on utility boxes or lampposts. But Kui Wong, as the King is known in Cantonese, carefully paints his ads in back alleys, street markets, bollards and on retaining walls.

I liked the idea of a mysterious, eccentric plumber who painted the city at night, but curiosity got the best of me. Earlier this month, I called the Plumber King — whose name is actually Mr. Tong — and asked him to come to my apartment to fix a broken toilet. Truth be told, he tried to overcharge me, so I ended up paying a consultation fee and sent him on his way. But he was a genuinely nice guy and we chatted a bit about his graffiti.

Here, in his own words, is Kui Wong, the Plumber King.

I’ve been doing this for half a century. I snuck across the border from China when I was young. There used to be a lot of factories that needed plumbing work done.

In the beginning I posted my advertisements in newspaper classifieds. Then I thought, what can I do to make more of an impact? So i made stickers. I used to put them inside lifts, but people don’t appreciate that anymore. That’s when I realized I could paint on the walls in different parts of town.

I’ve been painting for a very long time. I drive a motorcycle all over the place to paint my ads. I used to see the King of Kowloon walking around with his bucket of paint. But he’s dead now.

My line of work is not very desirable. A lot of radio advertising people have asked me if i want to advertise on the radio, but I rejected their offer because I don’t want to put myself out there too much. I just want to earn enough to be comfortable. I don’t want to be famous.


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