Yesterday, I visited the Dawang Culture Highland (大望文化高地). This is the second year that Dawang has been part of the Cultural Industries Fair; like Dafen, Dawang is using art and international art markets to urbanize. Unlike Dafen, however, Dawang is located at the foot of Wutong Mountain and is promoting a more natural and original art experience.
Dawang refers both to a particular village and the cluster of villages that nestle against the foot of Wutong Mountain and so development in the area tends to be village by village, leading to both unexpected convergences and contradictions. Importantly, the spatial layout of the area suggests interesting (if familiar) transitions between rural and urbane Shenzhen as well as the integration of neidi migrants and artists into the city. On the one hand, Maizai, for example, is the village closest to mountain footpaths and has developed a cobblestone pedestrian street for Shenzhen urbanites looking for weekend relaxation and local Hakka cuisine. Other villages specialize in selling lychee honey. There is limited, small scale production and commerce. On the other hand, transportation to the area is inconvenient, which means that land is cheap. Consequently, both artists and squatters have nestled into the edges of Dawang lychee orchards.
This layout highlights the important social function of urban villages in incubating new kinds of Shenzheners: locals as a new kind of renter class, artists as the up and coming middle class, and squatters as the lowest of the city’s urban proletariat. Importantly, the area’s distance from the city center means that its one marketable asset is precisely the feature it wants to destroy – its rural and undeveloped nature (in all senses of the world).
Dawang and its Culture Highland are featured in That’s PRD’s introduction to new artspaces in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Pictures of the lay of the land, below.