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Nihao from Shanghai
Spending six days in Shanghai has been an amazing experience. Nothing can quite prepare your senses for such an onslaught of colour, crowds and culture.
It was my privilege to attend The Asia Pacific Contemporary Art Fair, SH Contemporary. Once more I travelled with Flagstaff Gallery and it was great to be in the company of fellow artist Fraser Williamson and Gallery Director Alka Fowler and her son Sasha Fowler. On arriving in China we met up with our host Sean Chen, a Chinese artist that has lived in NZ for the last 25 years. It was through his invitation and that of artist, Mr Wen, also a NZ based Chinese artist that our trip to Shanghai was made possible.
Our days were filled with attending the expo. The visitors were genuinely interested in our work, with many wonderful comments and compliments. It was certainly a busy few days where we spent our time talking with the visitors and handing out as much information on Flagstaff Gallery and NZ art in general. They responded well to the colour exuding from our stand – a great reflection!
We were treated to some fabulous Chinese hospitality. Our dinners ranged from a full blown banquet complete with duck liver, pig’s stomach lining and sea cucumber to a more ‘off the street’ version of pig’s ears and boiled peanuts. Both Sacha and Fraser were both to be congratulated for their boldness in trying EVERYTHING that passed in front of them, whereas Alka and I took the more tentative approach. But, in saying all that, the food here in China is fresh and incredibly tasteful. There is something to be said about the ability to prepare and eat virtually every part of a slaughtered animal.
Our last day was spent exploring Yu Gardens – a five minute taxi ride from our hotel. This is one place where a good sense of direction is very important. It was so enormous it could have been very easy to get lost within the maze of lanes and stalls. I became very adept at bargaining down as there is definitely a skill in doing that – Sacha was unquestionably the king pin in getting the best deals.
To top off a fabulous stay we spent our final evening dining at ‘Lost Heaven’. This restaurant was recommended to us by local Germans, whom we met at the Fair. The food and setting was exquisite. Our walk home along the Bund was a perfect way to spend our last few hours. The skyline at night is quite something to behold – the raft of lighting is a masterpiece all in itself.
Shanghai is enormous. To cater for the 20 million people that call Shanghai home is sight to behold. It kind of feels like Auckland times 100. The skyscrapers are endless and it just seems to stretch beyond what your human eye can envision. I can only imagine the pollution that this teeming city produces on a daily scale.
A 6 day visit has been an opportunity of a lifetime – something I never once thought I’d be doing. Yet here I am – at the end of my stay – about to board my plane – and without a shadow of doubt I can’t wait to get home to Aotearoa. Travelling, whilst always full of excitement and wonder, establishes within me a great sense of pride and belonging for my homeland. I love how it creates within a traveller an appreciation and respect for other cultures yet an indefinable gratitude to the simple things in life – your family and the place you call home. Nothing compares to that!