Art lighting up rural China
Passing the torch
The success in Gejia Village attracted many other villages eager to learn from its experience, including Dingwang, a village of the Bouyei ethnic group in Qinglong County, southwest China's Guizhou Province.
Under an east-west pairing-up system for poverty alleviation launched in 1996, Ninghai County has paired up with Qinglong County for 24 years to help it fight against poverty.
"The capital, industry and technical personnel from the east have given us a lot of help over the years," said Luo Yun, Party secretary of Dingwang. "Now we hope to motivate our villagers as Gejia Village did."
In order to help the village, 13 villagers from Gejia Village traveled to Dingwang at their own expense. They devised a renovation plan for the village, helping locals clean up the environment and instructing them to redesign the village based on local conditions and their own experience.
They also taught locals to make cloth dolls with Ninghai characteristics. "I found the Bouyei women are born with skillful hands and master the skills very quickly," said Yuan Xiaoxuan, one of the villagers of Gejia. Yuan also innovated the dolls by adding ethnic patterns.
Helping locals sell their handicrafts, the Gejia villagers taught them to livestream with smartphone applications. "It's unbelievable that our artworks can not only make the village more beautiful but make it rich," said Luo Suimei, a villager of Dingwang. Her first attempt at livestreaming attracted 100,000 views in an hour.
"It's exciting to help increase our villagers' income without leaving the village," she added.
Art is like an engine that triggers people's initiative, and a pleasant community has not only a beautiful environment, but also smiles on everyone's faces, said Artur Rega, a doctor of philosophy from Poland, after visiting Gejia Village.
"The art practice has really changed the residents' attitude toward life. People are more positive about protecting the environment and participate in the villages' construction," said Magdalena Gimbut, another Polish doctor of philosophy who teaches at NingboTech University with Rega. "China has made important contributions to the world in poverty alleviation, and now it is working hard to make more people rich in spirit."