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, our facebook group has gathered over 1820 poets, writers, artists, and activists to 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 have traveled 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 a thousand river flags with hand-dyed fabric. These flags, carrying the most amazing poetry, art, and prints of the local plants from the riverbanks, have covered 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 all races and 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 chime music 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 1 year old to 93, is transformed into a poet, artist, cultural connoisseur, and river’s friend.
We hope to make a total of 2000 river flags by 2013 and bring them to the Yangtze River as gifts and peace ambassadors from the Mississippi River. As we travel along the Yangtze, we’ll make more flags to join in the flags from the Mississippi, 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 Voyage will take place in parts. In the summers of 2011 and 2012, a team of artists, musicians, dancers and students will travel down the Mississippi with the gifts from the Yangtze and offer them to the Mississippi communities while gathering gifts for the Yangtze River. In 2013, the team will bring the Mississippi gifts to the Yangtze. The gifts gathered from these voyages will be turned into multimedia exhibitions for the communities along the shores. A documentary film will be the final product for the project.
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 in Minnesota, Nebraska and New York City. Plans are underway for the exhibit to travel to China and around the world.
A film that documents the project from the preparation stage to the final exhibition
Wang Ping is a poet, writer, photographer, grant writer and fund-raiser, organizer for the trips and manager for the whole installation collaboration. 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.
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