CI Art Gallery Project

Developed from our successful Chinese photography exhibition in 2011 that toured several schools in Wellington, Wanganui and Rotorua, the CI Art Gallery Project is a monthly changing exhibition of small-scale artworks by Chinese artists or New Zealand artist of Chinese background. These artworks will be displayed in the Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington building at 18 Kelburn Parade. Admission is free and open to the public. Interested schools, arts and community centres are welcome to request a temporary exhibition.

“China Kids” by DU Yingnan

中国孩子 杜英男

Good Edition Prints, 2007.

China Kids
Photo: Du Yingnan.

These kids had just run away from the rising waters that flooded their villages in the south-eastern Fujian province. Photographer Du Yingnan captured these anonymous survivors, still in their school clothes and red Young Pioneer scarves, in a suite of 45 (possibly more) headshots.

“I remember having to wear one during my school days—a mandatory badge of honour in the eyes of teachers and parents, but a scarlet sign of uncool in the rebellious young minds.” These vestiges of a bygone era of the Youth League and young pioneers, their political pigment fast fading, still manage to band the kids together, stamping them not so much with approval, but with hope. Du Yingnan highlights this accessory item in saturated colour. With the red scarves around their necks, the children look buoyant, quaint, scout-like. Some obviously enjoy the attention from the photographer; others greet it with limited patience. There is excitement in the air, of children playing truant, en masse, with impunity.

What chaos, loss, and despair such ravages of nature bring is tacitly presumed, but personal details and untold stories do peep out: a pimple, a scar, a harelip, pierced earlobes, bits of hay in the hair… It strikes me how different these kids look from each other. Some could be from the north, Mongolia, or Xinjiang, from families wealthy or poor.

These are not the typical “headshots” gracing our ID cards and passports. Du Yingnan took care to spend time with each child. He took care not to show them crying. He resisted the group portrait.

Text: Luo Hui.