It’s instructive to jump off the number 11 subway line, once its passed the airport station. In Bao’an District, the No 11 line runs parallel to Bao’an Road, which delineates the inner border between the older, historic village settlements and their industrial parks. East of Bao’an Road, one heads toward the Pearl River, land reclamation, and scattered reminders of this deeper history. West of Bao’an Road, one heads through large industrial parks toward National expressway G107, which was the road that first connected the original Special Zone to Guangzhou via Songgang (images of a 2008 walk, here). At Nantou Checkpoint, National Highway 107 becomes Shannan Road and a fast track to the inner district real estate boom. Continue reading
The contrasts between the inner and outer districts are not immediately apparent because they are not juxtaposed in space, but rather through time; you need to travel (at least an hour, more by public transportation) from center city to its outskirts in order to viscerally experience the lived differences between here and there. Indeed, most people don’t make the trip (unless they live in one of the new gated communities along the subway lines that transport young managers and clerks and secretary types to their offices, most likely in Futian, because close examination reveals all subway lines–especially the high-speed and direct lines–converge in the city’s center) and even then, most don’t venture beyond the lines and malls because, well, there’s no time (true) and less interest (all too true).
Off the beaten track (or at least a 15 minute bus ride from the Longhua subway station), Dalang remains one of the manufacturing centers of Shenzhen as well as one of the few spaces where it is still possible to see container trucks of various sizes trundling about. The landscape itself is a dense mix of industrial parks, proper urban villages, collectively held property, and limited public and commercial property. In other words, the area retains much of its morphology from when Longhua was officially a market town (镇, 1986-2004) and the entire area was developed through rural institutions.
In the early spring, I arrived at the Songgang bus stop, “under the bridge”–a pedestrian overpass on the G107 expressway. The stop teemed with migrant workers and motorcycle cabbies, who screamed, “Where are you going?” Continue reading
This past week, I toured Shangling Old Village (上岭村) in Dalang. Decaying villages like Shangling contextualize the “what came after” success story that is SHENZHEN! And yet. This contextualization depends upon one, standardized (and quite frankly boring) narrative of rags to riches, sudden wealth, boom boom boom, etcetera etcetera and so forth. Continue reading
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.
Dafen is now a destination, with artists posing as painters, and visitors posing with paintings. Meanwhile, the subway is open and many of the new developments are opening and real estate is booming, so that it’s now difficult to find the painting village–it’s a sinkhole in the midst of rising towers. Impressions, below: