This past few days I’ve been in Changde, participating in the “Chance Encounter” Contemporary Arts Festival. Its the first of its kind in the city, and attempts to bridge between the city’s rich heritage of carpentry and stone-cutting with the capitalist juggernaut that has made its way to China’s so-called “third tier” cities.
We know that Shenzhen is an immigrant city, but inquiring minds wonder: where do the immigrants come from? Based on the recent release of Shenzhen statistics (for 2015), I’ve come up with the following chart that gives a crude (very, very crude) approximation of where Shenzhen’s residents are from circa 2014. Of note, if Chongqing and Sichuan counted as one place, instead of as a city and province respectively, the area would be roughly tied with Hunan for second most common origin. And yes, this corresponds with my (again vague) impression that Guangdong, Hunan, and Sichuan/Chongqing restaurants dominate the city’s eating!
Yesterday, I heard this story: A 30-something farmer from Lanzhou came to Shenzhen in 2013 in order to make his fortune. He started out working for a relative in a Lanzhou Noodle Shop, and then after a few months decided to open his own noodle shop. After looking around for a suitable place, he decided to purchase the rental rights to a noodle shop in Baishizhou, on the western side of Shahe Road. The shop had been recently renovated and came with a hefty transfer fee—180,000 rmb with a high rent. But the man was enthusiastic. So he sold his homestead land (宅基地) as an initial investment and moved his family to Baishizhou, where they worked. Only his youngest son went to school, while his oldest didn’t go to high school so he could work in the shop. As the last of the buildings in the Shahe Industrial Park are being demolished, he is being forced out without any compensation and no way back home. Continue reading
On Friday September 9, 2016, I had the privilege of visiting Nanting Village, Guangzhou with Professor Chen Xiaoyang, from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. The occasion for the visit was a screening of Zhong Shifang’s film, “From Border to Border,” a documentary on the Chinese community in Tangra Calcutta. I will discuss the film in my next post. Today, I would like to contextualize the screening of the film with a brief introduction to Nanting Village. Continue reading
It’s been a long time coming. Or not. Roughly a decade after Shenzhen targeted urban villages as “dirty, chaotic, and substandard” and less than five years after Gangxia changed how we thought about compensation, the official Shenzhen press has indicated its time for the city to change how it thinks about urban villages. Continue reading
So these past few months, I have been busy setting up a public arts education program at the P+V Gallery (虔贞女校艺展馆) in Dalang. We’re calling this series of events, the P+V Academy (虔贞女校学堂). This name, of course, is an updated rendering of Pious Virgins Girls’ School and the project to create a space for alternative, minjian (民间) histories.
On Saturday, September 9, 2016 at 3 pm, we’re screening Shefong CHUNG’s “From Border to Border,” a documentary about the Hakka diaspora in India. The title, of course, alludes to the marginalization of the Hakka within both China and India. We are thrilled that the director will be joining us for the screening and discussion. If you’re in the neighborhood, join us.
Located in the middle of an urban village, the P+V Gallery is the only historically restored building in Shenzhen that offers public programing. It is truly worth a visit to experience both the city’s deep history as well as Dalang Street Office’s efforts to shape an alternative public culture. The “Children’s Art Sprouts” projects, which organizes a monthly arts course, including the sock puppets is part of the Academy’s offerings.
There’s much I could say about why community art programs matter, but. Sock puppets! Incredibly cute kids! Everything that matters. Here.