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Focusing on the Miao for new photo display

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-24 08:04
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 Focusing on the Miao for new photo display

Miao people performing a drum ritual. Canon, the cameramaker, helps the Miao ethnic group to protect its cultural heritage. Provided to China Daily

BEIJING - Canon (China), the giant camera maker and global multimedia corporation, will hold an exhibition about the cultural heritage of the Miao in Beijing in February following a one-year protection project it undertook.

Canon started the project involving the ethnic group in May under the guidance of the Ministry of Culture. It is the company's second such program after undertaking one involving the Qiang ethnic group in 2009.

Canon sent a team of 20 into 16 counties in Guizhou province trying to find people with traditional Miao skills such as playing bamboo pan flutes and making Miao embroidery and silver jewelry. The team spent two months in remote areas in the province and took thousands of pictures and also shot moving images.

"I didn't know making our traditional clothes and embroidery was something important for our culture before," said Li Qiong, 27, a Miao woman. "Now I have started teaching my daughter how to do it because they are unique skills only we Miao people have. We should be proud of it and pass them on."

When the project started, residents of Qianhu Miao village, the biggest home of the Miao people in Guizhou province, were curious about the visitors and a little shy but, after several months, they became friends and talked a lot about their different lives.

According to a member of the team, some local young people decided to venture into the outside world after talking with them because they wanted new experiences rather than staying in the mountains for years.

"Our feelings were complex when we heard this," the team member said. "On one hand, we hope there will be more local young people who would like to stay here and keep their unique traditional skills alive and even popular in the future. However, on the other hand, we agree that the living conditions here are not as good as in the towns or cities. They should have the right to choose their future."

Rose Tang, a Chinese American artist and writer in New York, visited her family friends in Qianhu Miao village during the Guzang Festival, a traditional Miao celebration held every 12 years.

She said the village had changed since her last trip in May. "There were plastic bags, bottles and cigarette ends floating in the beautiful rice paddies because too many tourists are coming," Tang said.

She said her Miao friends told her as more and more young Miao people leave to work in cities, fewer of them bother to learn their traditional songs or play bamboo pan flutes - a practice she would like to be preserved and passed on to the next generation as a matter of urgency. As tourism grows, the need to preserve their traditions is becoming more acute. The issue has drawn the attention of the government, academics and society at large.

Besides providing professional equipment and experts to take pictures and make videos of the traditional culture, Canon will donate all the material they collected to China's intangible cultural heritage protection center for further studies and protection. They took 40,000 pictures and 200 hours of video clips. Most of them will be showed in Beijing soon.

OzawaHideki, president of Canon (China) said: "We will keep on making efforts toward cultural protection in the future. As a company, we should take on more responsibilities and give something back to society."

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