Friday, 23 February 2018

Xiaoxiao Xu | Shehuo

Photo © Xiaoxiao Xu | All Rights Reserved
I am always on the lookout for ethnic cultural traditions that are off the radar for most of us, and with my forthcoming photo talk in Shanghai and working on a forthcoming photo book on Chinese Opera of the Diaspora, I am naturally focused on China and its wealth of obscure (and rural) rituals, performances and festivals.

One of these performances is Shehuo, which originated in ancient religious rituals performed by ancestors of the Chinese to worship the earth. In common with every other ancient people, they believed that the worship would bring plentiful harvests and fortunes in return. 

The etymology of the word comes from She, the god of land and Huo the god of fire.

In time, these primitive worshipping rituals evolved into the Shehuo festivity; a tribute to the Tudi Gong, a deity who holds sway over fortune and wealth. Most Shehuo performances take place around traditional Chinese festivals, especially at temple fairs of the Spring Festival and the Lantern Festival. The performances in most regions last until the 16th day of the first lunar month, the conclusion of which also signals the end of Spring Festival celebrations.

The Chinese-Dutch photographer Xiaoxiao Xu (徐晓晓) provides us with her vision of a rural Shehuo festivity using a square format camera (probably a Hasselblad) which was her 2014 project. Her work is more fine art than travel photography.

Xiaoxiao Xu is originally from Qingtian, China, and moved to The Netherlands in 1999 when a teenager. In 2009 she cum laude graduated from the Photo Academy of Amsterdam. After graduation, she won The Photo Award and held her first solo show in FotoMuseum Antwerpen. She was nominated for the Joop Swart Masterclass for several times and she participated in exhibitions all over the world. She has published a number of photo books to reconcile with her nostalgia for a now unfamiliar China.