This summer, I will travel with Xin Maya Wang, a middle school teacher of Mandarin language in New York City, to document her return to China, where she was born and grew up. Maya has received a grant to travel for three weeks in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture in the southeast part of Guizhou. During this time she and I plan to visit one to two villages per day to interview and video-document various artisans of the Miao tribe. The material we generate on this trip will then be used as a tool to teach middle school students to speak and grasp more deeply the Mandarin language and culture.
Xin Maya Wang, a native of Yingkou in northeastern China, is currently a middle school Mandarin Teacher at the Calhoun School in New York City.
- To support the students’ exploration of Chinese history and culture in the modern context by demonstrating through media the artists’ (writers, poets, calligraphers, “street-level” craftsmen, modern artists, etc.) experience as they embrace the traditions of the past in the face of a globalizing world.
- To provide teaching materials and media assets that will support Calhoun teachers across disciplines (language, history, art, culture) in gaining a more in-depth understanding of the interconnection between traditional and modern Chinese art forms, peoples, historical periods and cultures. This will also facilitate continuous development of a library of media assets that can be used by multiple disciplines at Calhoun well into the future.
- To offer students the opportunity to cultivate a unique, more nuanced experience and understanding of China from a US-based classroom.
- To capture the visual beauty and reality of the Miao people and their strong tradition of silver jewelery-making and embroidery.
- To document the ways in which Maya uses her knowledge of two different cultures to educate and inspire.
- To create a visual portrait of Maya who grew up in a small village in northern China and now teaches in New York City; the physical, social, and economic juxtapositions between the two, contrasting worlds she has inhabited have contributed to a distinct way of being that is at once compassionate, aware, and motivated.
With the images from this trip, I will create a photography book, which will record a young woman educating others by honoring her culture.
Here are two of my past projects:
First meeting of International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (Menla, NY):
Bassline Circus (London, UK):
“Students in middle school age, in general are not much motivated to learn a language like Mandarin Chinese until the context and experience is meaningful to them. Many of them are not inherently interested in the language itself, but their eagerness to explore and understand more can be fueled by having experiences that connect them to the people who speak the language, and how they live, think, communicate and express.” - Xin Maya Wang
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