Village Mall comprises 500 square metres divided into 90 shops with space for exhibitions, musical performances, fashion shows, film screenings, a dance studio and a small market area selling new and used products
The opening of Lei’s first ‘cultural village’ in an industrial lot was truly innovative. It was like a window opening for the city’s creativity. “I think I had some influence on the movement that arose later in the creative industries, but I won’t take all the credit.” The first village that Lei opened, everyone who helped with the project had been helped themselves by the Village Chief. “Even today I try to integrate. For example: people who don’t like to study can work in the villages. These places are made up of people with stories different from mine; I’ve learned from them.” Lei explains that the success of the villages is due to the support and work of a wide variety of artists, including painters and other visual artists, singers and designers. “Success isn’t because we’re doing well but because we’re doing things differently. We’re better today.” Now, seven years after the inauguration of the first ‘cultural village,’ and with a new one opening every two years for a running total of four, Lei is once again thinking ahead. “Today, everyone is set up in industrial buildings. To be different, I decided to convert a shopping centre into an art centre. Otherwise I’d blend in with the competition. So I opened Village Mall.” This summer, Village Mall was open for an experimental period, but its official opening is in December. It comprises 500 square metres divided into 90 shops with space for exhibitions, musical performances, fashion shows, film screenings, a dance studio and a small market area selling new and used products. The space also boasts a number of small restaurants, cafés and traditional Macao sweets as well as book ‑exchange stands and workshops featuring various media of artistic expression. Ultimately, Lei determines the criteria for choosing businesses occupying this new centre on Rua do Campo in the heart of the Macao. “Just like a village, everything is done based on face‑to‑face contact. People who want to open a business come speak to me; when I want to engage with others, I go talk to them.” Lei guarantees that the project supports local artists both in production and promotion of different products. Lei may have moved on from social work to cultural work, but he never forgets the importance of social causes: Village Mall has a breastfeeding room and is one of the few public spaces in Macao offering this service.