Sidelights of the "From the Mountains" Summer Camp
2016-11-08
Written by Xiao Cao  Photo by Wei YU, Huang Wu   
 
At 8:30 on the evening of July 30, 2016, all the seats in the Shanghai Art Theatre were occupied with continuous applauses from the audience. As soon as the performances were over, small audience and their parents could not hold their excited mood and rushed up to the stage to embrace the “Little Stars” and took photos with them. This is the eighth talent show of "Minority Children from the Mountains" project. After 14 – day summer camp, 49 primary school teachers and students of 6 ethnic minorities from Inner Mongolia, Yunnan, Gansu, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces, showed colorful ethnic costumes and unique styles of music and dances of Mongolian, Manchu, Wa, Oroqen, Tibetan and Yi nationalities on the performance stage of “From the Mountains”. Splendid minority culture once again conquered hundreds of children and their parents in the magic city of Shanghai.
 
 
Subda's Wish
 
The first program is the dance “Running Horse” performed by the first primary school, Xilinguole xiwuzhumuqin banner in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. In fact, it is the first time for the children who learned to play the horse head string instruments, to dance on the stage, even the children themselves felt very surprised, "Their dances can unexpectedly win warm applauds!"
 
The project "From the Mountains" aims to inspire the minority children to build up their "self-confidence" through studying and inheriting their national talent and culture. The Inner Mongolian team leader, teacher Subda fully agrees with this point. When describing her expectations to the summer camp, her first wish is to “help the children build up self-confidence." 
 
Because the students she brought to Shanghai are not the "outstanding students" in the traditional sense, most of them are introverted, have average school results, and some of them are not gregarious children coming from single parent families. And the changes happened in them during the 14 - day summer camp life greatly surprised their teacher Subda.
 
“She is the most hard-working student of the seven students in learning dances, and her every dance move is very serious.”
 
"Since he learned to play the horse head string instrument, the past self-contained child has become talkative. During his participation in the Shanghai summer camp, he makes friends with a lot of other nationalities’ children.” 
 
“Before coming to Shanghai, he was criticized by his teacher for being lazy in rehearsal, and even secretly dropped tears in the bathroom. He has changed a lot in Shanghai. He is no longer lazy in rehearsal, and takes an initiative to assist the teacher in doing all kinds of work."
 
“At first glance, she is a good schoolgirl, in fact, she is an introverted child. She is always careful in speaking and doing things, afraid of making mistakes. During her trip to Shanghai, she gradually becomes like other children, dares to open her inner world, learns to take an initiative to communicate and interact with others." 
 
Teacher Subda speaks of changes of these children in the summer camp as if enumerating her family treasures with pleasure.
 
 
Grandma Guan's Harvest
 
The Oroqen team’s performance of the program "The Ancient Voices" was perfect, the director’s hanging heart fell to the ground. There is a person on the scene whose tears fill her eyes. Guan Jinfang, a leading teacher of the Oroqen nationality dance team at Baiyinna village, Huma County in Heilongjiang province, is the oldest national cultural heritor in the summer camp, we all affectionately call her Grandma Guan.
 
Though Grandma Guan is 60 years old, she is still hale and hearty, and she always takes delight in talking about the original ecological culture of Oroqen nationality. The Oroqen nationality is one of the minorities with minimum number of people in China - only more than eight thousand people. The children come from the Oroqen ethnic cultural organization she set up in her village, and the youngest child aged only 7. When they just arrived in Shanghai, these spoiled children at home continuously topped "messy bedrooms” and “messy dining tables” in the summer camp. Later, summer camp conducted "small badge contest", every night volunteers attached to every team made comments on the performance of the children, the children with good performance can obtain super little badge. Seeing the other teams getting more and more badges, the Oroqen nationality children are unwilling to fall behind, learn to follow up, and quickly upgrade the independent ability to take care of themselves.
 
Grandma Guan has begun to focus on “The Root of the Oronqen Nationality” since 1970s. Later, the culture organization was set up in the village, supported by “From the Mountain” project. In the cultural organization, she taught the children to learn the Oroqen’s songs and dances, and played the percussion instruments made by ancestors with animal bones in the mountainous forests. In the rehearsal, the children first wear fur clothing, restoring their tough state in the original tribal, and they found everything fresh and new. Because the performance level is not high, the director put down the words: "Whether the dance will be put on the stage depends on the results of the final rehearsal." It made Grandma Guan badly anxious. She tried to invite a percussion teacher to give on-site guidance and volunteer dance teacher Xiao Wei accompanied the children to practice dancing every day. Although they encountered the difficulty of formation change, but their performance of forest life "hunting" and "enclosure" still won audience’s praise. They are really the offspring of a primitive hunting nationality. 
 
After everyone's efforts, "The Ancient Voices" finally got approved through examination to perform on the stage. Grandma Guan went back to the village with one more Oroqen ethnic original ecological program for the villagers.  
 
 
Zasi Donzhu’s “lion’s roar"
 
Every year on the stage of the joint performances "From the mountains", a child takes the lead to shout "We come from the mountains......", and then guides the ethnic teams of the young actors and actresses singing and dancing. This year, the “lion roar” shocking the whole audience is a Tibetan little boy whose voice was as low as a flying mosquito at the beginning of the summer camp. 
 
His name is Zasi Donzhu, aged 11, a Tibetan student at Yiwow primary school in Yiwow town, Diebu County of Gansu province and he will be a grade six student after the summer vacation. Zasi Donzhu Zasidon was very shy just like other Tibetan students. He first blushes before speaking. On the evening of the second day of the summer camp, a nationality story solitaire activities was held. It’s Zasi Donzhu’s turn and he stood there silently as long as one minute before telling his story with his voice as low as a flying mosquito’s sound.  
 
In fact, it is the similarity for almost a number of ethnic minority children to speak in front of strangers. To solve this problem, the mountain teams design variety of activities for the children to open their hearts, release their enthusiasm, make new friends, and to establish a sense of trust in the summer camp every year. For example, they are body and sound games, various nationalities talent learning, cultural sharing in Shanghai's primary schools and cultural centers, training in children's EQ workshop...... These activities can quickly relieve the children's various symptoms, help them adjust their state and build up their self-confidence.
 
Vocal guide teacher gave Zasi Donzhu special lessons every day. He gradually took an initiative to talk with someone else. Every day his hair combed neatly. Sometimes he joked with the volunteer: "Sister, your hair style changes today, I likes it very much."
 
A week later, the director decided the order of the final show and named Zasi Donzhu as the representative of Tibetan students to lead the opening interaction.  
 
 
Related Links  
 
 
“From the mountains” program
 
“Minority children from the mountains" project was launched by the Shanghai Yiyou Youth Service Center in 2012, and gained financial support from the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation.
 
The project invites the minority cultural talent inheritors in remote areas into the campus, form mass organizations, teach the children to learn the national talent. "From the mountains" project aims to cultivate the mountainous children who are not parasitic on charity, and no longer passively accept donations, but will use their own hands to create their future, regain self-esteem and self-confidence, and become national cultural heritage inheritors. Each year the project will select some teachers and students from outstanding talent organizations to participate in winter and summer camps in Shanghai, to show ethnic minority culture for the children and their parents in Shanghai. The project is not only concerned about the heritage of national culture, but also encourages them to regain their self-confidence and national pride.
In the past 5 years, there have been more than 30 minority ethnic schools supported by the "From the Mountains" project to continuously have the minority talent classes. A total of nearly 3,000 students of 14 ethnic groups have participated in learning various kinds of talents, indirectly impacting 10,000 students in schools.
 
(From SSCLF’s Quarterly “Change”, second issue in October, 2016)