Embracing China’s old in the new – a Samoan experience

Being in China for a full month being taught with unpretentious and simple artistic Chinese skills in paper cutting and producing handicrafts has been rewarding.

With two more weeks to go, the National University of Samoa (N.U.S) team representing Samoa at the Training Course on Paper Cutting and Traditional Folk Handicraft Production for Developing Countries surely have learned the basic skills needed.

They can then tailor to suit and enhance knowledge on existing curriculum and apply skills acquired through classroom practices.  

As much as I would like to expand on how the training outcomes will be put into practice in media and journalism education, it all comes down to meeting the basic resource demands and fill in the pieces to where it best fits.

In this fast growing technological era where everything is becoming digital (with relevant software that can be bought online) to create the most fascinating or rather appropriate plain backdrops for a basic student television production, spending time to place those designs on paper and start cutting would be the least considered option for journalism educators and learners.

Unless for instance, a learning outcome is integrated in the television course for students to create their own backdrops using unique Samoan designs such as the ‘tatau’ or ‘siapo’, either on paper (a cheaper option) or stencil.  

It is worth exploring with of course, looking elsewhere for funds to acquire items such as (the right) scissors, thin coloured papers and glue.

Having a team of lecturers from other faculties such as the Teacher Education Department, on this trip, is a bonus. 

For Laeimau Peru Tugaga, who teaches Food and Textiles, she is appreciative of new ideas that could be shared with training teachers whom will continue teaching children in primary schools as part of their teaching methods.

“The fashion industry is growing in Samoa and so as the cultural designs now increasingly becoming more modern,” Laeimau said.  “The art of cutting paper designs is still being practised today by some tailors whereas most no longer consider it an art, instead, cutting materials according to measurements that would either be accurate or not.”

Learning the knowledge and skills from where it started has been an exquisite experience for Laeimau.  This week, she was rewarded with a paper cut masterpiece as one of the four first prize getters whose sample artworks had impressed the trainers.

The opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge about preservation of Chinese culture through folk arts is an exceptional experience for me in this trip. 

Switching backgrounds from journalism to learning and producing folk handicrafts on site was challenging for me in the first week.  I could still get it if I keep on practising.  I would definitely need time.    

Aside from my previous media training trips to China mainly covering for the news outlets I was working for or learn about theoretical and metropolitan views of the media worldwide, taking the classroom to the rural areas and workshops have been unique for this training.

More than fifty participants heard from professors in paper cutting, clay sculptures, dough modelling and rock painting over the last two weeks in Yangling and Xi’an Cities in Shaanxi Province.  A province that ‘is well known for making some of the most beautiful paper arts’ as noted by the founder of Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Phoebe A. Hearst at the University of California.

The group was also taken aback with an Art Gallery housed at China’s oldest and privately funded higher education institution, the Xi’an Peihua University.  Its main campus located in Xi’an (the capital city of Shanxi province), has an eight storey modern library with 2 million books in store which are also available in digital form. 

It is open 24 hours a day especially to its postgraduate students with a wifi connection enabling students to connect to its databases and conduct research anywhere, on campus.

The university President and Chairman of Board of Directors, Mr Jiang Bo, welcomed the participants and took a two hour tour with the group. Dr Jiang is the fourth and youngest President in his family who took over from his grandfather. Investing millions of dollars in education is money well spent, according to Mr Bo. “My family believes in educating China by providing the most convenient learning environment for the young people who will eventually become great leaders and give back to the community.”

This week’s session will be shifted to China’s present city of Beijing for three days.

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