“My favourite painting is this one called <Home>. I suppose the painter is trying to tell us that his hometown has been rebuilt after the earthquake. And the mountains and trees in the painting remind me of my grandparents’ home in China.” Said Qingdou Wei during the speech for the opening ceremony of a special exhibition held in Sydney.
“Make the World a Better Place – International Children’s Painting Exhibition in Honour of the Tenth Anniversary of Wenchuan Earthquake” was held in the Sydney China Cultural Centre during May 12th to May 24th. The exhibition aimed to in honour of the lives lost in Wenchuan Earthquake, and to introduce the achievement of the rebuilt in Sichuan Province after the disaster to overseas Chinese and those who care about the event.
The exhibition contained 3 parts. The first part is a set of photographs taken from Wenchuan and Dujiangyan – 2 cities that were heavily affected by the earthquake. Half of them were taken 10 years ago right after the earthquake and the other half were taken this year, after the completion of the rebuilt of those cities. The second part contained 30 paintings drawn by the children from Sichuan, showing their memories about the earthquake and their impressions about their hometown after the rebuilt. The third part of the exhibition was contributed by the children from Australia local communities. Some Australian Chinese children who have been raised in Australia but have visited China donated 20 art works about their impressions on China.
Catastrophe, or in a more direct Chinese translation – the collapse of sky and earth, is a painting by Hanyue Zhang,
04 second, 2:48 pm, May 12th of 2008, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hit Wenchuan County of Sichuan Province, that shocking earthquake known as Wenchuan earthquake or Sichuan earthquake caused 69227 deaths and 17923 people missing.
At that time, 8-year-old Hanyue Zhang was studying in her home in Beichuan, the county near Wenchuan. She was lucky, after near 48 hours she was rescued from the ruins. But she was also unlucky as till now, her parents’ bodies haven’t been found.
After the earthquake she moved to Guangyuan County with her relatives and now she studies in Guangyuan Baolun First Primary School – a school that can provide therapy to PTSD.
“She refused to say a word when she came to school at first,” said Yanran Lin, a teacher of Guangyuan Baolun First Primary School, and also an editor of a Chinese teenager magazine, “She would become extremely anxious if she saw other students walking with their parents.” One year after the earthquake, with the help of the teachers, Hanyue Zhang started to talk. <Catastrophe> was the scene she saw from the window when she felt the shake of the building. She would rather draw pictures than talking about her experience.
Hanyue wasn’t taught about the knowledge of self-protection, she stretched her body out of the window to see what was happening when she felt the shake. Shudong Wang, another child survived from Beichuan, was taught that a toilet is safe during an earthquake. <Toilet is Safe> is a painting drawn by him based on his own experience during the earthquake. Like Hanyue Zhang, Shudong Wang is also living in Guangyuan County now. Their hometown Beichuan, 200 km from Guangyuan, is the only county that has been totally abandoned after the earthquake. Near 10 per cent of the Beichuan population died or were missing during the earthquake, 2 peaks surrounded the county were dynamited in order to avoid landslide and to bury the ruins. A New Beichuan has been built next to the ruins of Beichuan, but to many people, Beichuan has become a home that they can never go back to.
The First Autumn after Earthquake
Uploaded by Gray Chen on 2018-06-08.
Huizhuo is from Qiang, an ethic minority group lives in Sichuan Province. Her painting <The First Autumn after Earthquake > illustrates the harvest of Qiang people in the first Autumn after the earthquake. Huizhuo studies in the Special Education School of Wenchuan, by using sign language she said that it was motherland China that encouraged and supported the rebuilt of Qiang community.
Sichuan is home to many minority groups in China like Qiang, Yi and Tibetan, they all suffered from the earthquake. “The minority culture was damaged a lot due to the earthquake.” Said Yanran Lin. Damaged villages can be rebuilt, wasted land can be cultivated, but the lost culture can never be recovered again. Minority culture in China especially like Qiang culture, relies heavily in oral inheritance because it lacks its own character system. “Many old people and monks didn’t survive the earthquake. The stories had been inherited for thousands of years, now they may be buried with the people with the knowledge forever.” Said Yanran Lin.
New Qingchuan After Earthquake
Uploaded by Gray Chen on 2018-06-08.
Ximeng Yuan and Wenqian Xi were born in 2008 after the earthquake, their hometown Qingchuan is also affected by the earthquake. In China, children birthed in Sichuan after the disaster like them are called the generation after the earthquake. To them, the earthquake is a story more than a memory. “Although the earthquake destroyed our hometown ruthlessly, but with the help and protection of my country, my hometown has become more beautiful.” Said Ximeng Yuan in front of the camera, without any face expression.
Meanwhile, the rebuilt of Qingchuan means a lot to Dr. Zoe White, one of the organisers of this exhibition. During the speech for the opening ceremony, she said she was in Qingchuan the day before the earthquake but travelled to Chongqing on the day of the earthquake. When she heard of the earthquake, she immediately organised a volunteer group to Qingchuan. She was shocked when she arrived Qingchuan – the place she stood yesterday had become ruins.
“Disaster belongs to all humanity.” Said Dr. Zoe White, “By holding this exhibition, we not only want to show the rebuilt of Sichuan, but also want to tell others about the confidence and toughness of Sichuan people. By overcoming the disaster and expressing it in an artistic way, we can better accept the challenge from nature in the future.”
Qingdou Wei from Sydney contributed a painting called <Beijing Opera> to show her impression of China. Born and raised in Australia, she only heard about the earthquake from her parents. “Children in Australia care about the people who suffered and they want to know about the earthquake. By holding this exhibition, Australian children can better understand the earthquake and they can build up a connection with the children in Sichuan.” Said Shuang Chen, the chairman of Sydney China Cultural Centre.
The last speaker for the opening ceremony Virginia Judge, former Minister for the Arts of NSW quoted Oscar Wilde and she said: “it is through art and through art only we can realize our perfection. And to that I might add that through one’s personal efforts to show that you care about other people and their tragedy you will make the world also a better place.”
(Video clips provided by Yanran Lin and the Special Education School of Wenchuan)