Zhuang Xueben – The Art of Life

Zhuang Xueben (1909-1984)

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Photo: http://www.fotocn.org/zhuangxueben/3127

I remember one afternoon walking around a plaza when I came across an exhibition showing black and white photos that piqued my interest. These were powerful close-up pictures of faces that drew the onlooker to take a second look. That was the first time I came across the Chinese photographer Zhuang Xueben. His pictures had a special quality of sensitivity and thoughtfulness about them. By now I was intrigued and noted down, from the exhibition, information about Zhuang and his photography. I’m sharing them here for those who are interested in photography and a little about Zhuang Xueben.

Zhuang Xueben

Sanctity and dignity – these are the descriptions often to describe the late Zhuang Xueben’s portraiture photographs.

His close-up pictures of members of various ethnic minority groups wield such power that the viewer is moved, if rather inexplicably at first, into pausing to contemplate the striking tranquility and beauty on the faces of these people. Almost invariably, his subjects look notably at ease and display the same serenity and elegance, regardless of their social status within the community.

Zhuang is able not only to close the distance between the subject and the photographer – two strangers, as it were – but also to draw out the personality of the people and to encourage them to communicate with the camera. This ability is testament to his long exposure to, and deep understanding of, the different ethnic groups, their individual traditions, and unique characteristics.

Ultimately, despite the fact that Zhuang’s pictures were said to have been more for the purpose of anthropological record, their artistic value and charm have transcended space and time to strike a chord in the modern viewer.

Zhuang Xueben’s portraits were unique in that the characteristics of the border tribes of that era were distinctly perceptible – by looking at these faces as presented, one senses the social conditions and prevailing attitudes of the 1930s. Perhaps the essence of that distant period may not be easily understood now, but the skill of the master photographer cannot be denied.

If you interested in photographers from China, there’s a link that features an interesting collection of their work http://www.fotocn.org/

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Community Entrepreneurship Training – Jakarta

1-10 Nov 2009, Grand Tropic Hotel, Jakarta
JUST CAME BACK FROM JAKARTA from an intensive 9-day “Game of Money” Training program (GoM) organized by Natural Resource Ventures, Singapore and Yayasan Langkah Baru Indonesia, and conducted by Entrepreneurial Development and Training Centre (EDTC), PNG.

This was the second part of an empowerment training program called Personal Viability or PV in short. PV is one of the most powerful program I know for mindset transformation that increases the viability of a person in six days for life and business.

One of the key objectives is to empower leaders with a disciplined and systematic way of training local communities on how to manage and multiply the value of their natural resources.

With 22 participants coming from different parts of Indonesia including Papua, we really had a rich tapestry of Indonesians which weaved in itself a beautiful picture of family. Indonesians are by nature such warm and relaxed people that it is so easy to just blend in with them.

I was amazed at how at home and comfortable I felt with my new-found friends even though we are from different backgrounds and culture. Being together in an intense training program would have driven most of us nuts but instead everyone was just so cool, even when our balance sheets threatened not to balance!

Five Keys to Success in Business:
1. Think!. Don’t run ahead until you have put yourself through a thorough thinking process.
2. Organization – Organize your family first then the project. Stock take the resources you already have and use them. God-given resources are both tangible and intangible, and no resource is ever too small to begin with. In Jakarta, each group started with 300,000 Rupiah (approx. USD35.00) but at the end of seven days, one of the groups had generated sales of 31 million Rupiah! On average the rest of the other groups had sales of 7 million rupiah and an average ROI of 37%. No one would have thought it possible at the start of the Game of Money.
3. Preparation – preparation, preparation, preparation
4. Rollover – Don’t let money go to sleep, put it to work for you.
5. Real team work together with diligence and perseverance produced a multiplier effect on our resources.

Faces of Starfish Community US 2009

SO MANY NEW FACES – new friends from around the globe, people who share a common passion to build a better world. I’m just honored to be a part of this great community. Thanks to the HISG folks, these people have great vision, audacious hope and the biggest hearts I know. What can I say but graze on, and may your banqueting tables expand in true kingdom fashion. No kidding.

The HISG Family-Keith, Randy & Norm
The HISG Family-Keith, Randy & Norm

New Friends
Drew Harding http://www.senaiglobal.org/
Drew Harding http://www.senaiglobal.org/

Friends eat together
Friends eat together

Serious Preparedness http://www.zebgear.com/
Serious Preparedness http://www.zebgear.com/
ZEB GEAR -WHY BE PREPARED Events are happening now that will change the world as we know it. Over the last thirty years natural disasters alone have increased by 800% with signs of continued incline.The first step in preparing for disaster, is knowing that you need to. ZEB Gear provides resources to equip you with the knowledge of potential hazards and how you can prepare in advance.
ChinaSource-Partnering Resources with Vision
ChinaSource-Partnering Resources with Vision
THE WORK OF CHINA SOURCE include ongoing research, publications, and various types of consultations and conferences. Its purpose remains the same: to enhance effectiveness through promoting informed service and collaboration among those called to serve China.

The Dubai, Singapore and US connect
The Dubai, Singapore and US connect

GENERATIONS OF VIRTUE is a ministry led by Julie Hiramine (in pink). Its ministry is to equip parents to empower their children for purity in our culture today. It is dedicated to providing books, music, movies, audio books, purity rings and purity jewelry that will equip parents, teens and children to mature and understand how to combat the cultural pressure that tries to squeeze them into the world’s unrighteous mold.

With Yazi, our brother from Africa
With Yazi, our brother from Africa
OPPORTUNITIES IN NIGER, SAHEL for sustainable development and community transformation. 1) Vocational training – We are training 16 girls from very poor families in sewing and knitting; 2) micro finance and business start up- 38 women are involved in our revolving loan and we are coaching 24 young people who started business; 4) Sports and recreation are great opportunities to enter into a community and have great impact of youth. We have a project to build and equip a sports complex on 174,000 square meters; 5) another opportunity is to invest in agriculture and livestock (production, food processing and distribution.) Others opportunities include water system and energy. Come and visit your tribe.

Starfish Expo – A Day in Beautiful Charlotte SC

DAY 2 19.10.2009

With Kharun at the mall
With Kharun at the mall
Woke up to beautiful weather in Charlotte, cool but sunny. Met Kharun this morning at breakfast, Charles old friend and colleague. He arrived last night. We decided to head off town at 1.30 pm to explore one of the area’s many boutiques, outlet malls and alfresco shopping centers. Charlotte has a quiet charm about it with lovely streets and homes. It has a website of its own called Charlotte’s Got a Lot where you can read up on its attractions and history.

Getting ready to Go
The Starfish Community Expo is kicking in. Most of the delegates would be arriving tonight and the registration booth has been set up.

Certainly not a whisper to be ignored.
Certainly not a whisper to be ignored.
Was introduced to Mike Schorah, CEO of WhisperRoar. The lone Englishman in a sea of Americans! Mike comes not just with degrees from Oxford University and Bristol University but is a business leader who was also as a pastor in the Church of England with a pioneering role for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Isn’t that an interesting background. Well it’s going to be fascinating and diverse group of people that I will be meeting in the next three days, that’s for sure.

Chronicles of a Starfish Community Explorer

DAY ONE 17.10.2009
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Ancient African Proverb

Waiting to Board my plane at the Hong Kong Airport
Waiting to Board my plane at the Hong Kong Airport
WELL, so my journey to join with other Starfish explorers from around the globe to meet at Charlotte, South Carolina from 20-22 October 2009 for three “dynamic days of building relationships and partnerships that could change the world” begins one early Saturday morning when I left my home to take an 11 am flight to Hong Kong.
Beginning of my 16,000 miles journey
Beginning of my 16,000 miles journey

What is significant so far is that this is my first voyage to the US on my own. Yup, never done that before. And my first maiden flight will land me in JFK International Airport at 10 pm New York time amidst cold blustery winds as I find my way to the shuttle bus that would take me the Ramada Plaza JFK Hotel.

I stepped out of customs after one hour of waiting in line and into the eager “arms” of about a dozen cab drivers that we had just warned about over the airport speakers minutes back not to take. Walking past them, I followed the sign to the AirTrain that should lead me to the hotel shuttle bus but the only trouble was it was outside and across the airport. No choice. Information counter was closed and I didn’t think I wanted to ask directions from those cab drivers either.

Angel from New York

CX 840 Cabin at night
CX 840 Cabin at night
A brisk walk into the cold, dark night and I was in the lift to the third floor of the AirTrain Station, empty except for a few people sitting on the benches. Not exactly a heart-warming sight. Walking simply by faith towards the benches and wondering what to do next, I saw a Chinese lady. She looked up and I smiled at her, with relief written all over my face I am sure.

I asked if she knew how I could get to the airport hotel. She didn’t but she was taking the AirTrain to another platform where she had parked her car and would be happy to give me a ride to the hotel if I went with her. In the train I gave her my business card and told her to call me if she was ever to be in Singapore in return for her kindness. A native from Qingdao, China, she has been working in New York for the past seven years but just started work near the airport a week ago, so she was not yet familiar with the place.

After a ten minutes train ride, we alighted and walked to a huge open air car park. The cold night had begun to drizzle as well. Finally in her car, she called her husband and asked for directions. He asked if her passenger was a man or woman. Woman of course! But I understand his concern. In less than ten minutes, I was in front of the airport hotel just a corner away. I was just so thankful for her help and told her that she must call me when she comes to my part of the world. Kelly is her name and she is the angel from New York that saved my night in a strange new place.

Meeting Ginnie Again
Meeting an old friend, faraway but always near.This trip brought me back into contact with my dear friend whom I had not met for the last 18 years, Ginnie Breen. She and I were in the same “Confucianism and Taoism” class at the National University of Singapore. Ginnie was an exchange student from Harvard and I found it highly interesting that a Westerner would take a rather esoteric class like this. So we became good friends in that year amidst her travels to Tibet, Indonesia and far flung places around Asia.

Now on 18 October, a Sunday morning in Ramada JFK International Airport Hotel, I was going to see Ginnie again, after 24 hours of flying and 18 years waiting. The weather in New York had turned much colder than expected with strong rains and winds coming in. The highlight in the news was about this boy who was thought to have gone missing in an air balloon, captivating the attention of the nation. However, this morning, the news and law enforcers are beginning to believe that this could be a hoax.

At 10.10 am, my sms beeped. “Shall I come up?” It’s Ginnie, she’s arrived! Oh, what do you do when you see a dear friend you have not seen in years? Give her the biggest and longest hug you can! We picked up on where our lives were, our kids, what we were doing and all the challenges and the joys faced. She has a daughter with autism and a documentary was made to highlight how important it is to recognize that every child has a voice, and has feelings. Sometimes the difficulty is being able to express them. Please watch “Autistic Poet.” It will touch you. Ginnie and her daughter are featured in this documentary produced by PBS.

So little time but we connected and it was a good feeling. She caught the 11.30 am shuttle bus ride with me to the airport so we could have a bit more time together. Precious. In the next hour she would be driving another hour to Newark Airport to catch a flight to Washington D.C. for business. Another big hug at the entrance to catch my flight to Charlotte. It will not be another 18 years Ginnie. I hope to see you again way before then.

Two Angels at Charlotte

Arriving at Charlotte by US Airways
Arriving at Charlotte by US Airways
This is a special trip from Day One, I knew it in my bones. Arriving at Charlotte Douglas International Airport at 3 pm, I bought myself a beef sandwich, drinks and Hershey chocolates to bring with me back to Heritage International Conference Centre. Arriving more than a day early, I had been warned that there would be no food there except for what has already been catered for the Expo. The last item was my emergency supply in case hunger pangs caught me by surprise.

Making my way to the baggage claim area, I let the sights of shops, restaurants and book stores sink into me. So this is America, this is Charlotte. Every face I walked by was new, I was a stranger in this land. I was in a world of my own when I heard a voice calling “Ivy, Ivy.” I looked around and standing right in front of me was Maureen Ngui in a red blouse and dark blue vest. Oh what an unexpected and heart warming sight!

Charles & Maureen Ngui
Charles & Maureen Ngui

My friends and fellow Singaporeans Charles and Maureen. I thought to myself “How amazing that I should meet them at Charlotte Airport.” I knew they had flown in a day earlier. As it was they had stayed overnight and decided to wait for me. So sweet!! Together we took the Carolinas Cab to the Heritage Centre where the Starfish Community Expo would be held from 20-22 Octpber 2009.

My room in Heritage International Hotel, Charlotte. Finally a place to rest my head and weary soles.
My room in Heritage International Hotel, Charlotte. Finally a place to rest my head and weary soles.
It’s 3.17 am Charlotte time, and I should be asleep by now. I’m still somewhere in between the US and Singapore time zones. Had a quick chat with Celia and Simon over Skype, my wonderful Singapore team members holding the fort while the other team members are in different places of the world. Kan Yuen left for Bougainville the same day I left for New York. It was their lunch time while it was suppose to be my bedtime. I’m so glad that Heritage Centre provides wireless connection. The journey continues…