Saturday, October 10, 2015

INSIGHTS - My 72 hours in Shanghai


Picture : my motto driver Pei, posing proudly in front of my painting. I like the contradiction between the anchored communist seriousness and my art.

When I got to Shanghai I had to downgrade my 3 weeks trip in China to 72 hours of transit via Shanghai for visa reasons. Apparently there was a big Holliday week and the embassy closed before I could get it .

Ok so far , I got there despite the limit. I like the city , the most advanced city to me , similar to Amsterdam and Tokyo : clean, low noise pollution because all motors are electric , great balance between contemporary culture and historical background. The culture is huge and you can feel it at any corner . 
Tea, silk, food and massage. The best things are there and I would say I like how refined and sophisticated people are in Shanghai, while being simple and accessible.

Despite the language barrier , it was easy to communicate with hands, images and eyes.
I met a girl who asked me to take a picture of her and her friend from Beijing at a subway station as I was heading to M50 arts quarter.
Sarah told me she was on her last day of Holliday and said we could go the Chinese tea ceremony in the old Shanghai at just 50 meters from here.

I said : yes! I was pretty amazed by this moment 100 %unexpected 100%magic. Her English was perfect, she is a teacher and lived in the U.S. for a while. As she translated what was said during the tea ceremony I felt lucky to be introduced to such an heritage thing in that context. I could not believe I was on my mission to paint and found myself there.
I let myself go.
As they explained the tea history , tea cup symbolism and ideogram meaning, I felt even more connected to the moment.
It is all about how people are connected between water , earth and sky, and all about people who collect the tea and how they drink it.
For them this ritual is more than a habit, there are a lot of social codes behind it. The time you drink it, the state of mind you have ( peaceful) and the way you hold your tea cup say a lot about you.
You can choose between holding it in a manner of saying you are beautiful or strong ( why not both ? :)), and you should finish your cup by 3 sips.
The monkey tea is the most expensive. Not only is it cancer preventive but also the only one tea collected by monkeys.  Apparently you can only find it on a super high  and 'out of reach' mountain, so Chinese taught monkeys how  to get up on the mountain and pick up the tea. :)
Through the varieties of teas they have, it was interesting to note that they do use it as a preventive / curative ingredient for health but also for mind and emotional balance.
They have teas to stimulate brain and intellectual efforts as well as teas to stimulate emotional passion :)

On my way there was that motto driver found by luck on the second day. His name is Pei. We could not talk together and he seemed curious about me going  here and there as preparation of painting. I was in a hurry, effective and not really wasting any second in benefit to the task itself. He did not get me until I asked him to drop me at the painted wall before I left  and asked him to make a picture.
He reminded me of Chu my driver in Hanoi who was similarly intrigued by my endeavor finding supplies, a wall and then painting. 
Until the end they did not know what I was doing.

When Pei drove me back, that guy who seemed cold and distant hugged me in a friendly way and stared in my eyes . I liked that moment that said everything .
Somehow people who get to know me in my sport, know me better.

I hesitated to paint for an hour as I had spotted cameras pointing the wall. In a paranoiac state of mind, I imagined myself get caught and forbidden to come back in China.
Still I did it. I thought to myself : I came here, I spent time finding out about street art and supplies and getting under this bridge near the river - strangely there is always a river or a water point near where I painted - I cannot give up now.
So I went for my classics knowing I would have to be fast and still in it.
I wanted to paint the complete wall but noticed more and more people were stopping on the road. It became a little mess as some cars could not drive. I thought : not good to attract so much attention now - I should go soon. And so did I .
As I left I turned back and saw various age groups watching. Seniors raised their thumbs and smiled. I was happy they all likes what I did. I guess it is not so ordinary for them to see a girl from another country painting in their street. :)

Lucky, again, was I to find the biggest art supplies shop near where I was , fascinating because all was good quality, for me a wonderland of paint, canvases, markers, mediums etc...

Street art is not developed in Shanghai. They used to have a long legal wall that was recently demolished. I saw some pieces here and there but I lacked time to dig further into that topic. As Google and Facebook are censored in China, it was even more difficult to find information on the subject , a big barrier that stands low with a VPN hotspot connection that you can easily install on your smartphone. 

Shanghai I like you ✌🏻️❤️

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