A satin ribbon


On the black-and-white photo, my brother and I are wearing whopping big Mao buttons considered haute couture in those days. We are talking about China around 1960s-70s. My father, a chemical engineer, made those buttons himself, locked up in his laboratory, neglecting his real work, for that was the only thing safe to do during the lost years generally known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. I think he enjoyed making them though, and proud too. Otherwise we wouldn’t be wearing them on a picture! I still have the buttons, now lying next to my laptop while I’m typing this blog post. Three of them, colourfully shiny and gold on a satin ribbon.  Good god, a satin ribbon!  So it wasn’t all about iron and steel even in those days. I think this is exactly why I now come to consider them a piece of art, perhaps rather unintended by their maker, because  “Art goes into the world unarmed, vulnerable to every quirk of fate, and it must survive only by its power to move men not to destroy it.”

I will keep the buttons safe and sound, dad!

julie 超辣

Determined dreamer. Published author in English, Dutch, and Chinese. Former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captain turned artist entrepreneur and screenwriter. She survived the Cultural Revolution as a baby. In the 1990’s she left for London and has lived and worked in free exile ever since. Her work covers a wide spectrum. As journalist, she creates content covering a range of topics on contemporary China from an insider perspective. In 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, she hosted a 5-episode talk show TV China for Netherlands’ national broadcaster and discussed China’s media landscape with media stars and experts from both China and the Netherlands. From 2013-2016 she was the Editor-in-Chief of the English/Chinese bilingual magazine XiN 新, focusing on today’s China shaped by consumerism. O’yang contributes a weekly column to Hoje Macau on contemporary Chinese art and culture. Her English language book titles include: Butterfly, a historical crime love story set in the Second World War. Since May 2016 O'yang has been collaborating with Flemish photographer Filip Naudts on an art project, which has resulted in the photo novel The Picture of Dorya Glenn. Julie works from the Netherlands and Denmark.

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