This past week I have been in Shuiwei learning to wrap zongzi (粽子) for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival. What is apparent is not simply the re-invention of tradition, but also the unpaid work that women do to create that solidarity. The zongzi making takes place over 10 days—two prep days and then 8 days of wrapping and boiling. The hours are long: 6:30 a.m. to midnight or later. Of note:
According to the women I’m working with, their mothers and grandmothers used to make zongzi at home, privately. Making zongzi together at the retirement center/ rock museum is in fact a new activity that started around 2009;
The organizer works for the Shuiwei company, but the rest of the women, especially the older women do not have formal jobs;
Their retired husbands cook three meals for them in the communal kitchen;
The core workers are between 40-60 years of age, but there are outliers—older women like to come down and in the afternoon, some younger wives will come and work;
The core group of zongzi makers are indigenous and speak the local dialect. Indeed, the more contact that women have had with migrants and immigrants to Shenzhen, the more likely they are to speak standard Cantonese or Mandarin;
The women I have asked don’t know how many zongzi they’re making because they’re not responsible for giving away the zongzi;
Older women remember when the ingredients were—sticky rice, palm leaves, cane sugar, peanuts, fatty pork, green beans, salted duck eggs—were produced locally. However, when I asked where the new ingredients came from, the answer was “bought”;
Dragon Boat Festival is one of three holidays when women are organized to make holiday food for the community.
REORIENTXPRESS: interview proposal – Mary Ann O’Donnell
We are two Italian architects, who are developing a self-initiated project of informal video interviews related with architecture and urban development, called reorientxpress, across a long journey overland around Asia.
We started in Singapore, where we had lived for a few years, and we moved on across Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India.
We’ve just reached HK and we’re going to move to Shenzhen tomorrow. Definitely you’re one of the people with a deeper understanding of the city’s evident and hidden dynamics, so in case you were there these days, we would love to have the opportunity to meet up with you for a conversation, to include your perspective in the sort of ‘fragmented debate’ that we are collecting.
To get an idea of our intentions you can have a look at the webpage ( http://www.reorientxpress.com ) and at the document at this link ( http://www.reorientxpress.com/abstract/ROXP_introduction_A4.pdf ) with a brief overview of the project together with a summary of the main suggested topics of discussion, consciously unfocused to be able to adapt & collect suggestions from a broad range of contributors.
In your case we would propose to discuss about the incredible transformations of the metropolis and their impact on life from an anthropological perspective, but also about the interplay between top-down and bottom-up processes in the city, with reference to various interesting projects that you have participated in, like the recent Handshake 302 and CZC special forces.
We will be in Shenzhen approximately from Thursday 18th to Monday 22nd June (but we might be able to stretch/adjust our schedule if needed), please let us know if there could be the possibility of meeting up during those days and, in that case, when would it better suit your schedule. We guess that you are probably very busy, but we promise will not steal you a lot of time!
We hope to hear from you soon,
alicia & antonio
Hi hot tuna, I just saw this message. Tomorrow I will be hosting a round table in the Shenzhen Center for Design. Perhaps we can meet at Handshake tomorrow night after the round table.
What you described sounds like the potential for community, the women talking and having each others company as opposed to,working privately in their own kitchens) is the great thing, reminds me of what we called ”quilting bees” those tended to be. For one day, this sounds even more extensive and immersive.