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Rural folks, rural strokes

By Deng Zhangyu | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-22 09:01
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An art bookshop in Bishan village that used to be the village's ancestral hall. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Qu Yan, an artist who works with installations, paintings, photos and videos, decided to use the power of art to help revive Xu village in Shanxi province, something he sees as "an artist's responsibility" as he reflects on the state of China's culture after the undoubted economic successes the country has notched up over the past 30 years or so.

When Qu was on an artistic scouting mission in 2007, taking photos, he was attracted by houses of various dynasties in Xu village at the foothill of Taihang Mountain. In 2011 he put on an international art festival in the picturesque village, inviting artists from 25 countries to display works there.

At the time the village was a husk of its former self, most of its adults having gone off to pursue brighter prospects in the city.

Xu and his team helped renovate old houses dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and transformed a rice storehouse into an art museum to display works made by artists taking part in the art festival. During the festival artists stayed in the homes of villagers.

"Locals didn't dare talk with these foreign artists," Qu, 62, says. "But now they can communicate with each other, their children acting as interpreters."

During summer holidays Qu invites NGOs to teach English in the village and musicians to teach children the piano, an instrument many of them will never have seen before.

"The children here are much more confident than when I first came here," he says. "I hope they can be confident about their own culture and value the history of their village by connecting with artists from around the world."

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