I have something in common with Mao's Last Dancer (and it isn't my dancing). Li Cunxin and I both love creating and flying kites. My sister taught me how to make them from paper, drinking straws and string. In Li's case, it's paper, bamboo and silk thread.
Kite made by Li Cunxin from bamboo, paper and silk thread (image by May Cross)
Li Cunxin has loved kites all his life and flew them as a child in rural China, with his beloved father and six brothers, when the land was too frozen to grow anything. Kites became a metaphor for Li's life, as his career soared beyond his poor childhood to the International ballet world.
Li Cunxin Flying a Koinobori (Image by May Cross)
Museum of Brisbane Director, Renai Grace, said that the Museum's Mao's Last Dancer Exhibition: Portrait of Li Cunxin , was complemented by great public programming, including daily kite making with paper wishes. You too can become part of Li's story this summer by creating your own kite, adding a hidden wish and flying it with friends and family across Brisbane as part of The Kite Wishes Project. Visit the Dome Lounge in Museum of Brisbane during the Mao's Last Dancer Exhibition and design your own kite or be inspired by the koinobori (carp streamer windsock) fish template created by Brisbane artist Elysha Rei.
Museum of Brisbane Director Renai Grace (image by May Cross)
Elysha Rei, a Brisbane-based visual artist, was Artist-in-Residence at Museum of Brisbane earlier this year. Elysha created a new installation work in her art of paper-cutting – a practice which is inspired by her mixed Japanese-Australian heritage. During the residency, I was lucky to have had the chance to watch her at work, ask questions, and try my hand at paper cutting in a workshop. Elysha's final installation was on display in the museum. The fish scales on her fish kite template mirror the fish scales motif she has used in her work in homage to the beautiful patterns of the City Hall foyer windows and on the wallpaper in the Dome Lounge.
Sophie Manning - note fish scales (image by May Cross)
At the Kite Wishes Project, each day children will have the opportunity to colour-in and make traditional Chinese kites and tying secret wishes to them - replicating Li's own tradition of kite wishes when he sent his dreams up to the sky. Li said that as a child he often wished for his father to spend more time with him and for his brothers to stop pushing him to the floor!
Li Cunxin with Kids Making Kites (May Cross)
When you visit the exclusive Mao's Last Dancer Exhibition, don't forget to look up. You will see simple, yet beautiful, kites made by Li from bamboo, paper, silk thread and glue. On display is also an old, white pair of ballet shoes worn by Li. As a form of self-motivation, he wrote "fly" in Chinese characters on his shoes, wishing to fly as a ballet dancer at the Beijing Dance Academy. He is still flying high with his position as Director of Queensland Ballet. And he is still flying kites.
Li Cunxin and Future Dancer (image by May Cross)
In conjunction with the Kite Wishes Project is a Masterclass with kite artist, Tony Rice. Tony is an artist and internationally renowned kite maker. You can join him on Saturday 17 February 2018 at 2pm and make your own spotted eagle ray kite. Tony's art draws on traditional methods from across Asia to create kites inspired by the local environment out of ecologically-sound materials. Cost for the Masterclass with Tony is $60.
MoB Makers Craft Centre (image by May Cross)
Return to the Museum on 24 February 2018 and celebrate by sending your wishes flying high as part of a giant kite procession from King George Square to BrisAsia's Kisaragi-Sai Festival at the Roma Street Parklands. The Kite Wishes Project is a collaboration between Museum of Brisbane and BrisAsia Festival. The Kite Wishes project is on from 1 December 2017 to 29 April 2018, daily, from 10am to 5pm and 10am to 7pm on Fridays and it is free. Find further details at Museum of Brisbane.