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November 24, 2020

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Shanghai craft expo to showcase traditional skills of ethnic groups

Over a dozen heritage skill masters from China’s ethnic groups will showcase their traditional techniques at the annual craft expo which begins in Shanghai on Friday.

Art employing 46 traditional techniques and materials such as embroidery, weaving, paper-making and bamboo-weaving will be on display at the 6th Shanghai International Hobby and Craft Expo.

The three-day expo, covering 9,000 square meters at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center in the Pudong New Area, has invited inheritors of listed intangible cultural heritages from 10 ethnic groups, mostly from remote mountainous regions.

The traditional skills include tie-dyed clothes of the Bai ethnic group, iron lanterns from Hebei Province and Tibetan incense from the autonomous region.

“The event aims to promote these excellent skills and protect them from becoming extinct,” said Zhang Lili, a professor with Shanghai University’s Academy of Fine Arts and operating director of the Shanghai Public Art Cooperation Center, one of the organizers of the event.

To attract local middle-school and college students, a series of free classes regarding these traditional skills will be provided both online and offline during the expo. “The expo is also part of the nation’s poverty alleviation campaign to help these masters develop their artworks into modern commodities,” Zhang said.

China has set up hundreds of traditional skills workshops in its impoverished mountain regions to help bolster employment and incomes among residents. A “cultural poverty alleviation campaign” has helped many artisans work from home with their traditional techniques.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many women were making embroidery at home with their children on their backs, according to the center.

At the expo, handicraft masters from Miao, Yi, Tibetan, Qiang and Naxi ethnic groups in central and western China will show off their traditional skills. Their products will be on display and for sale and expo organizers will introduce them to wholesalers and design institutes.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has launched a training program where people with inherited traditional skills are sent to study in over 100 domestic universities for a month. There, they learn how to adapt ancient techniques to make modern products that will keep the heritage alive.

Five local universities, including Shanghai University’s Academy of Fine Arts and the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, have taken part in the project. The academy alone has trained hundreds of heritage handcraft masters and developed hundreds of products over the past three years.

Organizers will also invite Shanghai’s time-honored brands such as Feiyun and Cao Sugong to cooperate with several heritage skills masters to help promote both the skills and the brands.

The annual expo initiated in 2015 has attracted tens of thousands of local visitors, especially families with children, and become a key cultural platform to promote cultural heritage, said Ge Yongming, deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Culture and Tourism’s intangible cultural heritage department.


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