Friday, June 29, 2018

Cantonese lessons

Love getting secret Cantonese lessons by a Starbucks barista that seems to take lost of pleasure with my embarrassing attempts at Cantonese!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rainbow in Chinese Style

A photography exhibition focusing on two ways of being queer in Guangzhou – through social activism to help the community through legal, medical and emotional trouble (with Zhitong, or 智同), and through queer-centric tango lessons with Tango Queer.

A tango performance by Tango Queer intertwined with a Butoh improvisation by Gustavo Thomas. 

A Mexican queer film (Cuatro Lunas, or Four Moons) that moved a number of people to tears through its simple portrayal of acceptance.

Numerous friends, but even more numerous strangers thirsty for openness, warmth, and something new.

A fruitful joint effort and a celebration of the our shared queer experiences at the Consulate General of Mexico in Guangzhou, as part of the 2018 Guangzhou LGBT Film Festival. Rainbow in Chinese Style. Because visibility counts. And we're not afraid to say who we are and what we want.

Kudos. And be proud. And loud. And out.

*Photos by Gustavo Thomas

Monday, June 25, 2018

our first Dragon Boat Festival

The weekend before last was the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节). Though originally celebrated in the south of China, you can now see dragon boat races and celebrations all the way up north to Beijing, I hear. But when we used to live up there, this festival was definitely a very "southern" thing we knew next to nothing about.

So, understandably, we were so excited to be in Guangzhou for this celebration! Oh, but what is it about? Well, there's sort of a long legend behind it, and frankly I don't think most people really know about it well. What matters is that people eat zongzi (粽子), which are a kind of rice cake wrapped in bamboo leaves, and communities near the water take out very long and narrow boats decorated with dragon motifs and parade them around the canals, and there are also more sport-like competitions. Fun!

So, the first day, we headed to a place we were sure had to have some action – Liwan Lake Park (荔湾湖公园). 'Cause let me tell you, it was almost impossible to get info on what would happen exactly where and at what exact time! But when got off the subway to walk to the park, it was clear we had arrived just in time! Some men were carrying suspiciously festival-like paraphernalia to the canals!

And, sure enough, that was for the dragon boat waiting for them! I loved it – the drums, the fireworks, the chanting, someone in the back of the boat throwing fake money into the air, the atmosphere of the canals... Honestly, I hadn't experienced something like this in China before, except for Tibetan New Year in Qinghai province. And it also felt a lot like a Japanese traditional festival! So alive! Wow!

Obviously, once we were done watching, we had to go buy some zongzi by the local vendors as well, right?

Now, these pics below don't have much to do with the festival, except that that same night we went to our local bar (Bravo) and lo and behold, they had a "Mission Horchata American Style Porter"? What? I love the creativity of the brewers at this place! And that was a nice porter, as well.

OK, after that little detour, back to the festival! The second day we went to Chebei, another area with a tradition of dragon boats. We arrived at around the same time we had been at Liwan. Alas, these guys were done already! We had just missed the rituals! So, strike one!

But... we knew there was one place where people were going to celebrate big. The third day we headed to Liede (猎德). You could hear the fireworks from afar and see the smoke! This was massive! The canal is big, it goes on for a long way, flanked by traditional architecture all along, and there were so many boats! And they were setting so many fireworks off that you could literally feel yourself breathing gunpowder if you stood too close to some of the boats!

This was, by far, the best.

So, mission accomplished. I am so, so happy we decided to spend that long weekend in Guangzhou. So worth it! And since sound and movement is a big part of this, here's a short clip of what we saw both at Liwan and Liede:

Friday, June 22, 2018

Keiichi Tanaami

Remember how badly I talked about the K11 art space in a previous post? Well... it just so happens that they had a new exhibition now. One with art by Japanese pop-artist Keiichi Tanaami (田名網 敬一). I had seen his art applied to everyday items like teacups and mugs, and we thought it was very cool. So when we heard there was an exhibition at K11, even at the outrageous price (by Chinese standards) of 80RMB, we decided we had to go.

And I am so glad we did. His recent creations were in the very first hall. And they are just so impressive! So colourful, detailed and intense! It's the kind of art you have to look at over and over again, focusing on different sections and discovering ever more details and scenes and chaos...

I loved it.

The rest of the exhibition consisted of older works. I mean, he was born in 1936, so he's produced quite a lot! Though his recent pieces are the jaw-dropping kind of art, his previous stages were fine as well. These are some of my favourite ones:

Of course, to maintain the obsessiveness of the exhibition, the selfie wall at the end had the adequate repetition and intensity. And, for those that thought 80RMB was too much or that were not  quite that into the artists but really into selfies, the advertising just outside the exhibition worked very well, as the young women below show.

Gotta get me some more of these Japanese obsessive artists. So cool!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

LGBTQ dimsum

As part of Pride activities in China, on Sunday June 10th different groups around the country decided to gather in various places for an LGBTQ and allies gathering for a convivial exercise in visibility. In our case, we were extremely lucky that in Guangzhou people decided to organize a dimsum brunch!

We basically occupied a popular dimsum place called Beiyuan (北园酒家), getting about 5 huge tables for all of us. We put a banner, there was a rainbow flag on a table, some of us wore rainbow wristbands... Not only did we have an amazing brunch (Beiyuan is fantastic!), but we spent a wonderful few hours with friends, we made new friends, we met our friends' kids, and we gave neighbouring tables an eyeful of queer people of many kinds enjoying life like any other person at a good dimsum place.

Happy Chinese Pride!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hong Kong, again! part II

Our second day in Hong Kong was easy and pleasant. It began with a walk around Wan Chai and breakfast at a diner (a diner! yes! Hong Kong is special like that).

And then, it was time for one last exhibition – "An Age of Luxury: the Assyrians to Alexander", at the Hong Kong Museum of History ( 香港歷史博物館). But first, there was an interesting walk from the subway to the museum. Such a live city!

But back to the exhibition. It gathers items from 900BC to 300BC, showing the kind of luxury that could only exist thanks to different massive empires and broad commerce routes. Assyrians, Babylonians, Achaemenids... flasks, perfume bottles, wall decorations, furniture... Beauty everywhere. What a wonderful exhibition.

This time we took an earlier train than last time to get back to Guangzhou, so we wouldn't feel as tired. So we had just enough time for a leisurely Vietnamese meal (but, to be honest, we were there mainly for the coffee! love it!) and browsing bookshops...

But, just before we headed to the train station, we were confronted with a quick reminder that life is always more complicated than the nice things we might enjoy at both sides of the China-Hong Kong border – a memorial to Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize human rights activist who died while incarcerated (because of his activism) in China. A sobering goodbye image, Hong Kong.