Mosque Street’s Other Name

In contrast to the bland apartment buildings on its south side, the northern side of Mosque Street is lined by a crumbling stone wall and vegetation spilling over from the lush grounds of the Jamia Mosque. If you peek over the wall, there’s a nice view of the mosque, which is the oldest in Hong […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Mosque Street’s Other Name , , , , ,

(Private) Eyes on the Street

[youtube][/youtube] These days, the sweet ballads of Cantopop might seem like they are smothering whatever creative spark Hong Kong’s music scene might have, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1970s, Cantonese pop was populist, exciting and avant-garde. Until then, most of the popular music recorded in Hong Kong was in Mandarin. It was […]

Dear Hong Kong: A Letter from Montreal

The following essay appears in the April 2010 issue of Muse, a Hong Kong arts and culture magazine. The same issue also contains my feature-length profile on Hong Kong’s “tree professor,” Jim Chi-yung. The magazine can be found at major bookstores throughout the city. In my neighbourhood, I know exactly what language to speak. At […]

Cargo Port by Day, Playground by Night

By day, the Western District Public Cargo Working Area is a sun-bleached strip of forklifts, barges and rusty containers. By night, it’s another world. People from across Hong Kong’s Western District sneak into the cargo area to ride their bikes, fish, barbecue, sit by the water and chat with friends. Security guards watch the activity […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Cargo Port by Day, Playground by Night , , ,

De l’Abitibi à Hong Kong

Franco-Algonquin hip hop is the last thing I expected to encounter in Hong Kong, but that’s exactly what I heard this past weekend at the former Central Married Police Quarters, which has suddenly become the most interesting cultural space in town. Over the past month, the Heritage X Art X Design festival and the Indie […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Canada, Music, Society and Culture, Video by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on De l’Abitibi à Hong Kong , , , , , ,

The Many Chinese Words for “Lane”

Suoyi Hutong, Beijing There’s several different names in English for small, secondary streets that run between blocks or behind major roads. Alley and lane are the words most often used in North America, but there’s significant variation in the UK, where regional words like vennel, chare, wynd, twitten and jigger are common. It’s a similar […]

The Politics of Toponymy

Few things are as contentious and politically charged as the names of where we live, so it’s not surprising to see toponymy back in Montreal’s political spotlight, three years after the Park Avenue/Parc Avenue/avenue du Parc debacle. Earlier this week, a variety of nationalist groups began to advocate the renaming of Amherst Street, ostensibly because […]

Posted in: Canada, Heritage and Preservation, Politics, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on The Politics of Toponymy , ,

Look, Hope and Expect

Street markings are ubiquitous in Hong Kong, thanks to its British heritage, and pedestrians are urged to “Look Left” or “Look Right” at every crossing. But I was somewhat astonished to find out that the Chinese character used for this command (望, pronounced mong in Cantonese) does not just mean “look” in a literal sense, […]

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Welcome to Hampstead

Writers and journalists looking for a quick and easy symbol of Montreal’s political and linguistic divide usually find one in the city’s downtown west end. There, in the shadow of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, René Lévesque Boulevard turns into Dorchester Avenue as it crosses Atwater and passes from Montreal into Westmount, a remnant of the […]

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Language in Toulouse

Toulouse is a large, cosmopolitan but relaxed and laid back southern French city. It feels like it has as much in common with nearby Spain as with northern France. The bilingual street signs here are a tantalising reminder of how the city’s history could have been different. Had Occitanie remained a distinct culture and society […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Europe, Society and Culture by Donal Hanley Comments Off on Language in Toulouse , , , ,

Riga: Language and the City

Having travelled in other parts of Eastern Europe when younger, I was excited about my first trip to Riga, Latvia, a few months ago. I was not sure exactly what to expect but had an idea that it would feel more developed than other parts of Eastern Europe while still bearing quite some traces of […]

Chinatown, Greektown

Toronto, like many cities across North America, uses its street signs to identify neighbourhoods. Chinatown and Greektown are no exception. In Greektown, which extends along the Danforth for several blocks, Greek signs are posted above the standard English signs. It’s more a token recognition of the neighbourhood’s historical ethnic character than anything else. In the […]

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Nathalie and Denbigh

My hunt for apartment building names has only just begun, but these two photos show exactly why I’m interested in them in the first place. Appartement Nathalie is located on St. Denis near Rachel, right in the middle of the Plateau Mont-Royal. The Denbigh, meanwhile, can be found about five kilometres to the west, at […]

Chinatown is Changing

In September, the owner of Swatow, an import/export business, announced he will replace his St. Laurent Blvd. store with a $20-million shopping centre – the first major real-estate investment in Chinatown since the 1980s – that will include a supermarket, office space, a rooftop banquet hall and small boutiques similar to those found in Toronto […]