I hate stereotypes and dislike of them is  I believe the motivation for the sad ‘appropriation ‘saga. The wonderful Kamila Shamsi rightly  wonders in this link – why there should be obstacles to telling peoples stories.  For 18 years I wrote reviews of art exhibitions. Reviewing ‘Everyone’s Life is an Epic’ by Qu Leilei –  the first one man show by a living artist at the Ashmolean – I was bowled over. I guessed his life was the epic one and it was . (There’s  a link to his ‘ 9 lives’ story on the blog below.)

I thought I was well informed about China and its post WW2 history but he told me a story I didn’t know.- his first -hand account of the courageous Stars Art Movement (Beijing 1979). I asked myself ‘Why do we know about the Impressionists who risked mockery for their art but few know about these artists who put their lives on the line?’

I determined to write about them but the fab audio book of Brushstrokes in Times was accused of Cultural Appropriation. I believe my novel is more authentic even than Madeleine Thein’s  Don’t Say We have Nothing . Why ? Because I interviewed Leilei in depth for 3 years and his family was at the heart of the historical events that form the background to my novel.  Almost all Chinese (in China) over the age of 40 know the name of his famous father Qu Bo. Madeleine is of Chinese ancestry and I’m not but she was born and brought up in Canada and her parents were from Malaysia. The difference between us is mostly the colour of our skin. Below pics of Leilei with his friend Jung Chang at the opening of a recent exhibition and with me on the publication of my novel .It would not be authentic without the background detail and eyewitness accounts I had from Leilei.  Leilei is brilliant at hands. This painting  full of emotion for me points to the importance of EMPATHY .   # China #Cultural Appropriation #art# Stars Art Movement# Ai Weiwei