Just discovered the Ethiopian girl band Yegna, who aim to address issues such as forced marriage (the Amhara region has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world), isolation and teen pregnancies to a national audience, teaching self confidence to girls and young women.
The 5-member group was formed in April, 2013 as part of the internationally funded Girl Hub scheme, which also operates in Nigeria and Rwanda. Girl Hub is a corporate initiative and the band itself is spoken of as a “brand”. The five members are: Teref Kassahun (nicknamed Melat, aged 26), Lemlem Haile Michael (Mimi, 26), Zebiba Girma (Emuye, 22), Eyerusalem Kelemework (Sara, 27) and Rahel Getu (Lemlem, 22). Watching the video for award-winning “Abet” provides a crash course in the subject positions open to young girls in Ethopia. It also shines with hope.
Today we held the design workshop for the Dalang graffiti festival. 27 people attended the workshop, which involved creating designs for manhole covers. With the exception of one individual, none of the participants admitted to having taken any art classes outside of school; none admitted to sending their children to art classes. All were immigrants and during their self introductions, they mentioned their hometowns; one made a joke that her hometown was “too small to have English names”. Next week, participants will take their designs and begin painting manhole covers at a workers’ dormitory, a neighborhood, and a school.
The other day, I walked from Huaqiangbei through Gangxia and Xinzhou, where I hooked back to Shuiwei via Huanggang Park, a wonderfully unexpected urban oasis. Today, I’m uploading impressions of the diverse complexity that characterizes Futian Distict, which is home to Huaqiangbei, the central business district, and some of the most well-planned urban villages in the city.
and I’m listening to music by 张广天, whose music simultaneously evokes revolutionary times and postmodern desires. Zhang Guangtian is considered one of the first figures of Shanghai’s 1980s rock and independent music scene. In 1990, he moved to Beijing, where he has collaborated with both theater practitioners and film makers, most notably with the National Experimental Theatre’s Meng Jinghui. In 2000, Zhang Guangtian burst into national consciousness with Che Guevera (切·格瓦拉), which he wrote and directed. However, today it is the vexed lyrics of Mao Zedong that have me feeling bittersweet about the Chinese Revolution and the aftermath of Reform. The song was written for the 110th Anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth–how resplendent he was, Zhang Guangtian nostalgically sings–and although the lyrics allude to the need for revolution the images firmly tie Mao to the Party’s purposes. And the idolization. Simultaneously compelling and disturbing, I find it difficult to turn away from the Great Helmsman (below).
Pictures of the Shanghai Hotel, one of the earliest and most important landmarks on Shennan Road taken in 2005 and 2010, respectively. Other than the skies, of note: In 2005, the bus stop was being expanded and the six story Rainbow Department Store was tucked away behind the Grand Skylight Hotel. By 2010, the new Rainbow Department Store dwarfs all other buildings. This is all part of the upgrading of Huaqiangbei.
Last Friday evening, Yang Qian, Chen Hongjuan (Melon), and I participated in a public talk on “Designing Escapist Experiences”. The event was the first in a four-part series on experience design that is co-produced by the OCT A3+ space and the Baptist University of Hong Kong, Master’s of Visual Arts in Experience Design. As with many talks in currently salon obsessed Shenzhen, the talk quickly exceeded its proscribed limits, this time steering into discussions of whether or not art was by definition “escapist” or if it constituted an opportunity to re-imagine the world, with particular reference to the every changing utopian project of the PRC. Also as with many of these discussions, commerce came in, guns blazing: was it really so horrible to pay for the delights of Disney princesses or to imagine oneself as middle class if only for a few moments? Indeed, it is an exciting time to be in Shenzhen where public debate–especially minjian debate–is enjoyed and well-attended. Young and old, well educated Shenzheners and recently arrived professionals, everyone wants to learn and is eager to share “true thoughts” with receptive interlocutors. After two hours of intense conversation, we took a group photo and went home, refreshed and somewhat hopeful in the lingering delights of conversation.