Recent Trips in China

Capped Off with Yellow Mountain

Since returning from our holiday trip during the Spring Festival, Lester Alemayehu and I have visited a few more interesting spots in China. We thought you might like to take a look!

Heng Dian

The first stop was Heng Dian a small town 4 hours out of Hangzhou. This town is famous for it’s movie sets as it is the largest of its kind in Asia. You can visit famous sites like the Forbidden City or Hong Kong streets all in one day! We chose the local temple and garden grounds for this weekend’s haunt.

Hangzhou Wetlands Park

The city of Hangzhou and our new home has an amazing botanical garden as well as a great wetlands park and some amazing tea tree hilltops, all quite large and spread out in comparison to the small size of the city. We went with some friends to visit the wetlands on a sunny spring day. Their son Danny was born the day after Alemayehu.

Hong Cun – Hong Village

The next location was the our most picturesque stop in China to date. WWe took a school trip with Lester’s workmates to Hong Village and Yellow Mountain about 5 hours drive away. I really enjoyed this particular trip, and despite the incredible crowds, I still think it was totally worth it!

Yellow Mountain

Last but not least, the amazing Yellow Mountain. Our timing was perfect. The weather was gorgeous, and the clouds delicately wrapped mountain peaks, making for excellent pictures.

 

3 Countries, 2 Beaches and 5 Cities

IMG_2627Lester, Alemayehu and I went on an exciting tour of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia over the Chinese New Year Holiday. The best document of the trip is on Facebook, click on the albums.

We have been traveling around Asia for 5 years now, and this last trip was our most ambitious yet. From Hangzhou, China to Malaysia. First Kuala Lumpur, then Pangkor Island and Melaka, We could use one word to describe Malaysia… SWEEEEEET! We then took a bus to Singapore, and Lester had quite a harrowing experience at the border. Alemayehu and I with our American passports were allowed in without question, but no-one had heard of Guyana, and after learning where it was, they apparently could not figure out why he would want to travel all the way to Singapore. We were shocked and disappointed at this treatment, especially as it was Lester’s second time in the country. He represented Guyana at an international Commonwealth Youth Parliament event. After 3 nights in Singapore at the home of my friend and teacher Cai Qing, we finally moved onto Indonesia. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Indonesia and learn more about batik. In Yogyakarta, I spent a day creating my own batik design with some professional batik artists. We then flew to Bali and spent a few thrilling days on the beach there. Alemayehu learned to swim in the pool of the hostel! He had been on the brink of swimming by himself after swimming in the pool of our last apartment and on our last trip to the Philippines. We finally coaxed him into taking the plunge! Our last stop was Jakarta where we did some shopping for gifts.

It was an amazing trip, and we learned a lot about Asia, this sort post really does not do it justice at ALL. If anyone would like more details, let me know.

Shanghai Biennial 3 Perspectives

China Museum of Modern Art


We were so happy to met you and invite you along with us on our trip.Curator — Artist — Audience

Congratulations to the organizers and participants of the 9th Shanghai Biennale! It was a tremendous effort lead by the great talent Qiu Zhijie. It was such a pleasure to be a part of the amazing team that coordinated the Biennial. I certainly learned a lot about what it takes to put together this kind of show.

For the Curators a massive amount of research to find artists and funding. They must also coordinate with the museum and the artist. Dealing with all the politics on a personal level one moment and an international level the next. Then, they must carefully consider the very physical logistics of the space and installation of the work at a moment “art” can literally include anything. Not an easy task, but what could be more exciting?!!!

The Artists have to deal with being in a foreign place with tremendous restrictions on their time and often their resources. I am sure the shift of place affects their psyche, but they should at the same time produce their work, re-created their idea in a clear defined way.

The Audience has the easiest, but possibly most important role. assimilating the work. I went to Shanghai on three occasions, and on each trip I identified with each separate role. Each role has it’s own set of challenges. I was neither a curator or an artist, and on my final trip I was there with my family. I therefore identify most with the audience role. The experience of the audience is so crucial. I really wish I had been able to see more of the show, but my 3 day trip was simply not enough time to visit the huge set of exhibits. Art takes time to be absorbed.

Considering the challenges and the vast scale of the project, I have more respect than ever for the efforts of Qiu Zhijie and his team.

For more detail please visit the biennial website: http://www.shanghaibiennale.org/en

 

Her Hair Must be Fake AND The Shanghai Biennale

Educating the Masses on black hair

Educating the Masses on black hairThe grand opening of the Shanghai Biennial is fast approaching. The main curator organizing this massage production is also the main adviser for my masters degree program at China Academy of Art, Professor Qiu Zhijie  (邱志杰). The biennial will be in the brand new museum for modern art in Shanghai, the first exhibition held in this space. The existing factory space has been renovated and the new work is currently being installed.

The biennial’s framework has also been expanded this year for the first time to include several project outside the museum space, such as, the City Pavilion project and the Zhongshan Park project. In professor Qiu’s opinion, representing one’s city in this exhibition carries even more significance than representing one’s country and yet doesn’t present as strong of a political statement.

There will be about 28 cities represented, and I will be helping to build the Pittsburgh pavilion. Tomorrow the heavy work begins. I’ll update you on the progress.

The Shanghai Biennial is the reason I am away from home and free to write this blog post, but weather in Shanghai or Hangzhou, my experience walking on the street in China remains a constant challenge. Today as I stopped to buy a snack from a man selling wraps on the street, I lamented the fact that everyone constantly comments on my hair. The problem is the inevitable question and often belligerent and incorrect answer: “Is her hair real or fake?” “Of course it’s fake! It must be fake!”

It really maddens me that everyone believes my hair is fake. So much so that the question is rebuffed as a stupid one. And then there are the constant giggles and comments about my skin color. Women in China go to extreme lengths to prevent their skin from getting tanned. They prefer pearly white skin as a status symbol.

One of my friends in the art program, a tall and handsome white  man from France pointed out that the issues of hair and skin are prevalent also in the black community. He says he always has to deal with people commenting on how tall he is. I don’t think he gets it. I guess I’ll have to take him out for a 30 minute walk one day. When people see two of us walking together as a couple, I’m sure he’ll begin to understand the depth of the problem.

I of course talk with tons of people everyday about where I am from and let them touch my hair. Today a woman in the restaurant where I ate dinner counted out my dreads. Apparently I have 220 dread locks. That was a fun interaction. On the 15 minute walk home I told myself that I should just focus on things like this and ignore everything else. It worked for about 5 minutes. A few people passed and stared, the usual question rang out. Ok, I can handle it. Then a couple passed by. The guy said, “Oh a black women.” After a few seconds they started to laugh loudly. I just can’t understand why that was so f—ing funny.

 

Happy 5th Year Anniversary!

Paul Family Portrait
The Shuren College Crew
Paul Family Portrait
Paul Family Portrait
Mayehu Makes Friends
Mayehu Makes Friends
Male Bonding
Paul Family Portrait
Paul Family Portrait

 

I am so proud to be a part of this family! Five years of marriage but we are still going strong. There have been some ups and downs but Lester’s drive and determination is my inspiration. I honor and respect his hard work and devotion to our son. Lester, you are the best thing that has ever happened in my live, right after giving birth to you son. Alemayehu, everyday we watch you learn, laugh and grow. Keep on striving for the best. It is a Paul family tradition!

Performance Art

Is My Foot Bigger Than Yours?
Interweave: Touch My Hair
Mad Woman Jamin'
Interweave: Touch My Hair
Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake: TV Interview
Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake
Beauty Score
Color Gift
Stripped / Strapped

Identity politics is at the center of my recent explorations. The barriers we create to define ourselves and our communities can be a point of contention, but my work strives to create a space for cross fertilization, where two or more cultures collide with thrilling results.

My work in China centers around the theme of beauty and the black body.

Is My Foot Bigger than Yours? This work was staged at the China Academy of Art Xiangshan Campus on April 26th, 2012. The aim was to create a space where people could feel comfortable to explore difference, much like the Interweave-Touch My Hair Series.

Money Tree was performed on the winter solstice, 2011, the darkest day of the year at West Lake Hangzhou, China. The location was West Lake, Hangzhou, and participants were asked to donate strands of their hair to be woven into money as a part of a money tree revival ritual.

Beauty Score, took place in July 2011, at the Zhejiang Art Museum in Hangzhou, China. It is a work created to address opposing concepts of beauty. In Chinese culture from ancient times until today, beauty has been equivalent to white clear skin. In an attempt to further grasp how black skin on a woman is perceived, Beauty Score was created.

Mad Woman Jammin’ was performed on October 22nd, 2011 at the 12 Annual Open Arts Festival Shanghai, China. It starts out as a colorful, playful exploration of the culture of dance and revelry at the core of Caribbean and African culture but the audience experiences a sudden and dramatic turn in mood and emphasis.

The Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake was performed at West Lake during the summer of 2011, Hangzhou China. This famous beautiful lake has long history, and the city of Hangzhou is often lauded as one of the most beautiful cities in China. In the summer of 2011, the West Lake was listed as a World Heritage site. Cai Qing and I visited the 10 famous spots on the lake and worked as artist and model to create this art event. Our aim was to challenge traditional Eastern concepts of beauty. For each of the 10 sites, I wore a new outfit and assessories, and Cai Qing used different media to portray the scene. Cai Qing is the first PHD graduate of the China Academy of Art with a doctorate in Performance Art Studies. He wore his cap and gown to signal his “authority” on what is beautiful. During the later sessions, I asked the audience to give me a beauty score as part of the Beauty Score series.

On the final day, after the artwork for the 10th spot was completed, cai Qing and I joined Shan Zeng our curator on a Hangzhou TV special.

Threads – The Wearable Art Fashion Show, was a collaboration with Juliana Cope at the Jersey City Museum in New Jersey, USA. The show opened with the festive piece Body Bootie, where Juliana and I used movement and materials to celebrate life, and the uninhibited joy of youth. I performed on stage in a colorful plastic crocheted costume while 8 months pregnant. As the opening piece this performance was perfectly contrasted with the closing piece, Undercovers: A Bespoke Burial Blanket which addressed the way some cultures prepare their dead for burial.

The Republic II: Huaxi Village was performed on November 19th, 2011 at the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China.

Color Gift was performed on October 22nd 2011 at the Shanghai 800 Art District Building, Shanghai, China.

The Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake was performed 6 days July 2011 on West Lake, Hangzhou, China. The TV interview for the show “Forum by Qiantang River 2011.08.13” of the artists Glenis Paul and Cai Qing and Curator was filmed on the final day.

Threads – The Wearable Art Fashion Show took place on February 24th, 2008 at the Jersey City Museum, New Jersey, USA

Stripped/Strapped was performed in July 2004, New York, USA.