This is a speculative post about something that has been niggling at the back of my mind this past year. Or at least since I started walking around Shenzhen after COVID restrictions lifted circa April 2020; I think the era of urban villages in Shenzhen has ended.Continue reading
I went out this morning to buy fresh bread (still warm!) at my favorite bakery. The stairwell in our building is not only spotless, but also smells of disinfectant. In the compound, our resident Party Center (党群中心) had an announcement about sanitation safety on loop. One of the security guards took my temperature as I left and as I returned.
Things that I’ve heard from friends in other parts of the city: streets are empty, but in Baishizhou, more storefronts have been cordoned off; the country may be on lockdown, but it is partial. Urban renewal proceeds. Also, students have been sent reading materials and some have already begun online classes.
Something I’ve heard from a friend whose hometown is near Wuhan: everyone must stay indoors. One person per household can leave once every five days to purchase food and necessities.
Yesterday I walked Baishizhou, remembering the bustle of our rushed departure. Bikes and motorbikes, cars and moving vans clogged the hot streets, and we squeezed through and around pedestrians on their way home or to work or to shop or out for a snack. Yesterday, even the once crowded food alley has been mostly abandoned; a few shops are still open at the intersections between the alley and main roads, but the overwhelming feeling is one of departure and a viscous waiting.
Sabrina Muzi was the Handshake 302 visiting artist in June 2017. Her work is wonderful. She’ll be showing her video “Wandering Baishizhou” on Friday, May 17. If you are in Rome, do check it out.
Since the invention of cell phone cameras, most of us take more pictures in a day than we used to in a week or sometimes even a month. We take pictures of ourselves, we take pictures of landscapes, we take pictures of friends, and we take pictures of cats. Many, many pictures of cats. The question, of course, is what are we doing? What desires do these pictures represent? What is the story behind a selfie or the truth capture in a photography of a sleeping kitten? Continue reading
On March 29, Chengdu artist CHEN Weicai held his final salon at Handshake 302, showing us the work he created while in Baishizhou. He focused on two questions–materiality and rules of engagement. The results were inspiring. Here are a few of the pieces he created in and out of Baishizhou’s material substrate.
On October 14, 2018, Handshake 302 welcome a group of Chevening scholars to Baishizhou. We brought the Chevening scholars to seven of Baishizhou’s micro-environments. Each micro-environment not only illustrates the urban life of Shenzhen, but also represents an important moment in the city’s history. Continue reading
“Singleton Lunch” is a thought experiment with food. Handshake 302 invites participants to prepare a meal for 4 to 6 people (the average size of a household). We provide rice, oil, seasoning, bowls, water and electricity. We give the chef five yuan per person to purchase ingredients anywhere in Baishizhou. The chef uses these ingredients to prepare a meal. During the meal, the chef leads a discussion about the challenges of making a home in Shenzhen. In other words, “Singleton Lunch” asks people to share their stories about settling down in a city, which is famous as a destination for unmarried migrants. Continue reading
The second station on the Chinese side of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, Buji was an important Hakka market town that during the early years of reform was a center of manufacturing. Today, Buji is a street office (办事处) with an estimated population of over one million. Most Buji families live in an urban village and their children attend minban (民办) schools. A minban school is owned and operated by private companies, filling educational needs that are not met by the public school system. Elite minbans tend to be international and position graduates for university abroad. However, the most common type of minban school in Shenzhen is the urban village minban, which has been set up to educate children who are ineligible for a public education. The most common reason for being ineligible for a public education are hukou related; often families are not long-term residents of the city, which means their children are only eligible for public education back home, or the child was born outside the family planning policy and the parents cannot afford the fines to send the child to public school.
Today, I walked the village named Baishizhou, which is located south of Shennan Road and is not scheduled for demolition. This other, lesser known Baishizhou is tucked away behind Window of the World, middling housing estates, and the KK Banna Mall. Unlike the Baishizhou that is scheduled for demolition, this other, less expensive Baishizhou does not hum and pop, does not buzz with entrepreneurialism and the rush of young office workers, but rather transports us back to Shenzhen 2.0; at the turn of the millennium, most Shenzhen neighborhoods were like this: straight-forwardly residential in the middle with an outer ring of functional shops and fast food, and hardware stores that spilled into the street because the sidewalk had not yet been laid down. Continue reading