Ten Thousand Flags, Ten Thousand Wishes for Our 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 over 2220 members to our facebook group, where we share poetry, art and news about rivers on the daily basis. Ourwww.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 amazing 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 and San Antonio. 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 create art, share stories, and make more flags to join in our forces. Through outdoor hands-on activities, through the stimulations of five senses, every participant, from 6-months old to 93, is transformed into a poet, artist, cultural connoisseur, and river’s friend.
In the summer 2013, we’ll bring the 2000 flags to the Yangtze as gifts and peace ambassadors from the Mississippi River. As we travel along the Yangtze, we’ll make more flags, then install them all in Tibet, the source of the Yangtze and other major rivers in Asia. From the roof of the world, our wishes for peace, harmony and clean water will spread to the whole world.
River connects us all. It runs through us 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 stewards.
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 and fund raiser for the whole project. 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 bridges across the rivers with her art and poetry and with this river project.
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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