Sunday, August 10, 2008

10th August

On my way to the City Art Centre to meet my daughter at an exhibition.

In the far distance, I see a colourful woman coming towards me, without really distinguishing who she is.

"What an interesting looking woman" I'm thinking, a little vaguely.

And then I see it's her! We run to each other in slow motion....

...And then walk, happily, arm in arm, to the exhibition. "China - A Photographic Portrait".
About 600 images taken by 250 Chinese photographers on three floors.
Selected from over one hundred thousand works taken by more than one thousand photographers.... It is utterly vast.

Every picture tells the most amazing story.

The first room gives the most eloquent impression of vastness. Of the hugeness of the Chinese people. Massive, massive crowds. The captions are so eloquent:

"Some farmers live off giving blood".

"So many people, not enough trains"

"Queue for ladies' rest room"

"Unemployment line". This was a picture of a man with a young child standing together in a dole queue. Becca drew it to my attention: we used to do that when she was small.

"The stamp collecting fans queeing to buy new stamps".

"A farmer's wife and her ten children". Exhausted, exhausted woman.

"A man carries his wife home following her sterilisation operation". She's lying on her back, still semi conscious, in a special sling across his shoulders. Her face is covered with a cloth. She looks like a corpse.

"A woman feeds triplets". Huge swollen breasts; one baby at each breast; a third on the floor howling his eyes out.

"40 pupils must cross this bridge every day to get to school". A little crowd of them swaying perilously on ropes high above a rocky torrent. They are led by a young girl looking especially grave.

"A car stuck in the mud in a village street, being pulled out by water buffalo".

"The blind woman in her massage clinic". Behind her the sign reads: Wonder Working Hands Bring Back The Springtime!

"A 95 year old wearing a Pekin opera costume being carried on stage"

"Sparrows are a plague, so they are caught and killed wherever they are seen".

"A run down Sichuan opera house is going to be torn down"

"Farmers at the 'Bitter Memory - Sweet future prospects' gathering eating the rice of the 'bitter memory'".

"Holding a portrait of his deceased wife, an elderly man fulfills their dream of visiting Beijing".
I say to Becca: Mum would have loved this exhibition. And think of the picture of her in my purse.

"A church choir of female trombone players rehearsing in the countryside".

"Undesired intruders are expelled from the city with force". Women behind iron bars in cattle trucks crying bitterly.

"Female prisoners hoping to have their death senstence repealed".

"The new styled fortune telling booth". A very sternly dressed young woman with spectacles, I think also in a white coat, sitting at a ramshackle table in front of a sign which reads "Calculated Instruction for Life; Protection From Illness; Avoidance of Plights; Business Success".

"Uighur farmers electing their leaders with beans".

"On the village stage, farmers perform plays they have written themselves".

"In the mountain area, extraordinarily fat pigs are bred".

And we couldn't manage the third floor. Glutted with powerful images and amazing stories, we went off for a cup of tea.

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