We Are Water: Kinship of Rivers
Kinship of Rivers is a five-year interdisciplinary project to build kinship among communities along the Mississippi and Yangtze, and bring much awareness to the river’s ecosystem through art, literature, music, food, and installations of river-flags made by river communities. Since its creation in spring, 2011, we’ve attracted almost 3000 members to our Facebook group, where we share poetry, art and news about rivers on the daily basis. Our www.kinshipofrivers.org website has published thousands of poems, stories, music, art, videos and photographs.
Making River Flags — a medium inspired by Tibetan prayer flags— is a key element for the mission. Wang Ping and other artists have visited hundreds of schools and river communities to share poetry, make river flags, and install them along the rivers. We travel by canoes, boats, trains, cars, bikes, motorcycles, and on foot, up and down the Mississippi, St. Croix, Minnesota, Missouri and the Yangtze rivers, sharing poetry and stories, making food and music, and creating over 2000 river flags with hand-dyed fabric. These flags, carrying poetry, art, and prints of the local plants from the riverbanks, have travelled thousands of river miles: the entire Mississippi between Itasca and the Gulf of Mexico, the entire St. Croix and Minnesota rivers, part of the Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas rivers, the Atchafalaya Basin, and rivers from California, San Antonio, Vancouver. As they flutter along the riverbanks, confluences, islands and burial mounds, they release people’s wishes through the wind, and soak up energy from each place, each river, each tree, and each hand that made them. Just as rivers gather all kinds of water: streams, creaks, rain drops, springs, Kinship of Rivers has brought communities together: Tibetans, Ojibwes, Dakotas, Cherokees, Choctaws, African Americans, Hispanics, Europeans, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Nepalese, children, seniors, students, teachers, artists, scientists, environmentalists, politicians, park rangers, galleries, theatres, museums, schools, colleges, National Park Service, and Army Corps of Engineer. Blessed by the people, places and rivers, our river flags have become ambassadors of peace, joy and harmony. Wherever we go and whenever we set up the river flags, the wind chimes with melodies from the Mississippi and Yangtze, tea and dumplings, people would come to share stories and joy. Under the river flags, every participant is transformed into a poet, artist, cultural connoisseur, and river’s friend.
In the summer 2013, a group of artists (Wang Ping, Alex Wand, Oliver St. John, Alex Howard, Ariel Lerner, and Scott Gannis as our base manager and interactive web master) brought the 2000 flags to the Yangtze as gifts and peace ambassadors from the Mississippi River. As the flags traveled and fluttered along the Yangtze from its mouth (Shanghai) to its source (Tibet), we made more friends and connections along the way. Hundreds of Chinese people sent their good wishes to the Mississippi River and Americans. Through much hardship and determination, we reached the Mount Everest with our flags. From the roof of the world, our wishes for peace, harmony and clean water spread to the whole world.
During May and June, KOR will display all the flags at the Soap Factory Gallery, with sculptural installations, Sand Mandala, photos, prints, books, poetry reading, bands from the Mississippi and Yangtze, Aztec dance, orchestra, theatre and performance, tea ceremony, dumplings, canoe making, river flag making, a whole month of celebrating rivers with artists from the Mississippi and Yangtze, and from the world. We hope you’ll join us in this celebration with your hands and hearts.
The new flags made at Soap Factory will travel to India in summer 2014, to bless and be blessed by the rivers there, then to Mount Everest in 2015. We’ll carry all the flags up there, on foot. Your wishes for peace, harmony and a better world will be released through the wind, from the South Sole.
We are water. It runs through us like a river, like blood. It is our blood, our mother.
The Yangtze and Mississippi Rivers share many things in common as the world’s third and fourth greatest rivers. Both rivers share similar challenges such as pollution, sinking deltas and cities (New Orleans and Shanghai) caused by dams, agricultural and industrial runoffs, and overuse of ground water. Both rivers are rich with history and culture, inspiring poets, writers, artists and musicians. As the two rivers flow across the continents, giving and taking on their way to the sea, they teach us that we are all connected. This is what Confucius envisioned two thousand years ago: the four seas as one family, and the world as one commonwealth.
Gifting is the spirit of the river. It gives and sustains life without asking for a return. It includes everything along its course to the sea without judgment. The project will inspire the creation of music, dance, food and river flags offered as gifts from the rivers and to the rivers, a gesture to show respect, gratitude and care from the rivers’ friends and steward
The Voyages take place in parts. In the summers of 2011 and 2012, a team of artists, musicians, dancers and students traveled down the Mississippi with cultural gifts from the Yangtze (photos, art, music, tea, food, films) and shared them with the Mississippi communities while making river flags as gifts for the Yangtze River. In two years, we’ve made 2000 river flags and will bring these gifts to the Yangtze. As we travel, we’ll make more river flags with the local communities and install them all in Tibet.
We hope to reach 10,000 river flags by 2016, the end of the project.
We’ve done many multi-medium exhibitions along the Mississippi with river flag installations, poetry reading, sculpture installations, film, music and dance performances, tea ceremony, dumpling making, flag workshop, and live sand-mandala creation by Tibetan Buddhist monks.
A documentary film will be the final product for the project.
Paddling/traveling: we travel along the two rivers to connect people and communities, celebrate cultures and rivers through sharing and making art, music, dance, poetry and stories, food, river flag installations.
Kinship of Rivers website: featuring the project mission statement, travel details, river flags and albums for events, individual and organization participants, events, gallery of gifts that include poetry, stories, music, art, photography and dance, maps and portraits of the two rivers
Kinship of Rivers Multimedia Exhibition will be a culminating collaborative project with participating artists and students who have traveled the two rivers. They will create sculptural installations with gifts, objects, stories and sounds collected from both rivers. The exhibition will travel to museums and galleries along the Mississippi and Yangtze.
A Kinship of Rivers film that documents the project from the preparation stage to the final exhibition
Wang Ping is a poet, writer, photographer, dancer, rower, public art artist, curator, organizer for KOR. Born in Shanghai, Wang Ping now lives on the bank of the Mississippi. She’s been photographing and writing about the two rivers for the past decade, and would like to build kinship among all the rivers on earth with her arts.
Kinship of Rivers, in partnership with Soap Factory Gallery, is a fiscal year 2012 recipient of a Cultural Community Partnership grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
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