Published on: 19th Jan 2015
In English, when you do someone a favour and they thank you for it, you normally will respond with something like "No problem" or "Don't mention it". The Americans will always respond with "You're welcome".In Chinese you will hear 没关系 (Méiguānxì), which, in English, means "No obligation". I once read in an article on Chinese culture that the Chinese way of life is a web of obligations. If somebody invites you for dinner, you are obliged to also invite him for a dinner of,at least, equal in value and stature. We actually experienced it in one of the restaurants in China, where we saw two formally dressed gentlemen literally fighting over, what seemed to be, the bill. Our translator then told us that this was a typical ritual because none of them wanted to be in debt with the other at the end of the evening.
If this 没关系 (Méiguānxì) is carried over into foreign relations, then we are in for a tough time in 2015, as I know in South Africa we do not have the resources to equal what we have experienced at the Yixian Photography Festival!
As already mentioned in a previous article about the South Africa / China exhibition in Bellville in the Cape, the years 2014 and 2015 were earmarked by the South African and Chinese governments as two special years of cultural exchange programmes, with 2014 being "The year of South Africa in China" and 2015 being "The year of China in South Africa". (See this article on News24 for more information)
With this information at hand, we (and with "we" I actually mean my curator friend, Miss Guo Jing, from China) convinced the Yixian Photography Festival committee that it would be a good idea to make their major exhibition in 2014 a South African themed exhibition. The committee also agreed to pay all expenses for the preparation of this exhibition, as well as all the expenses (excluding travel to and from the festival) of a South Africandelegation of 11 photographers during the festival.
This year's main festival venue was a new holiday resort built next to Xidi, a UNESCO World Heritage ancient village. This holiday resort is built in the same style as the ancient villages. All the buildings in this "holiday resort to be" village were converted to exhibition space and from 8 to 12 November 2014, it was home to a print exhibition of more than 7 500 prints! We were allocated a huge separate building to host our South African exhibition of 270 prints by the festival committee. Literally translated they called this "The South Africa Museum"
The prints were printed and framed ranging in size from 60x60cm prints to 1mx1m prints.We divided our exhibition into two themes called: "Celebrating South African Photographers" and "Beautiful South Africa". For the first theme we exhibited photos of Jill Sneesby, President of PSSA, the two Vice Presidents (Francois Rousseau and Anne D'Oliveira), as well as three actively involved past presidents (Johan Botha, Francois Roux and Johann van der Walt). For the "Beautiful South Africa" theme we exhibited photos of a group of photographers selected to cover the most popular genres of photography as seen in PSSA related activities. This theme also included photographs of South Africa taken by the delegation of Chinese photographers who visited South Africa in May 2014. Lastly it included a set of photographs from each member of the South African delegation.
We arrived on 7 November to help with the last preparations of the exhibition. Unfortunately, on 8 November - the day of the opening of the festival - it rained, so all activities took place under the cover of umbrellas,but this could not dampen the festive spirit.
The opening ceremony was, like always, a grand affair. Because of the importance of the South African exhibition, I was treated as a VIP - a new experience for me!
In the afternoon, the South African exhibition had its own opening ceremony, and I had to give a speech and even do the "unveiling" of the exhibition.
Part of the exhibitions at the festival were medal winners of several international salons of the past year, and we were pleasantly surprise to find the photos of two South Africans (Tania Cholwich and Willem Kruger) amongst these exhibitions!
With 2015 being "The year of China in South Africa", we need now to fulfil our obligation by hosting an exhibition to celebrate the beauty of China in South Africa. Planning is already under way for a Chinese delegation to visit South Africa in May. This visit will include a print exhibition, but we'll most certainly not be able to equal the impressive exhibition that took place in Yixian!
(If you have read up to here and did not click on a photo yet, do so to see them in larger format and also to browse through the rest of this gallery)