Shèhuo, a traditional festival in Northwest China, is the subject through which Netherlands-based artist Xiaoxiao Xu portrays, explores and celebrates the connections between people and the land they live in, its traditions and its future.
Solemn, intimate and pervading, her images capture the magnificent colors, costumes, makeup and decorations, but also the harsh, unpromising nature of the region in which the Shèhuo festival takes place. As Xiaoxiao Xu travels from village to village and is welcomed into people’s homes and lives, the festival, its traditions and its preparations slowly become an otherworldly, mystical force.
“It seems that the only way to face uncertainty is to return to the familiar, to the comfort of what we know. But what is familiar in a world where people are migrating, uprooting themselves for a better life, learning to express themselves in another language, shedding some of their cultural skin in order to blend in? What happens to use once we leave our village? And when we eventually go back, has the village changed or have we?
The feeling of displacement, of being an in-betweener is common among those who left. Xu’s images show that there is comfort in traditions, even when they are not ours.”
― from Maria Caterina Bellinetti’s closing essay “Shooting the Tiger” (all text included in English)