Life is full of challenges. Sometimes we deliberately seek them. My wife Li Yang and I have chosen for a very special and much insecure way of life. We founded our own grassroots nonprofit organization, named Prop Roots. In order to be able to build our project center, we had to make huge personal offers, in fact burn all our ships, but we now live and run our project from here in our Prop Roots Center, right in the village: a settlement mainly inhabited by people of the Zaiwa/Jingpo ethnicity, in a “remote” village in the China-Myanmar border area.
(© Li Bing)
My wife and I, as Prop Roots, do our best to empower the local Zaiwa/Jingpo children. Local education is poor, without stimuli for personal development. These great kids have many capacities but need a platform such as only we are providing, giving them more chances to express themselves, and helping them build confidence in themselves so that they will be strong enough to choose their own directions in life once entering society, a society which is rather... OK well then... this is an amazing place with a lot of fantastic people, but its society is also immensely fucked up, excusez le mot, by a lot of social problems which are greatly aggraveted by the huge quantities of drugs coming in from Burma. We want to prevent what happens all too regularly: when local adolescents have no aims in life and no self-esteem, they just follow the wrong examples and start taking drugs. My wife and I are idealists. The outcome of what we do cannot be calculated in numbers. But with our creative activities, language classes and intercultural exchange events, and also just by being part of the local community, we know we are making a difference.
PROP ROOTS Children’s Activity, Arts and Culture Center
Spread out over different articles in this blog, I will tell the story of how it all started and how we came here. And what or who are the Zaiwa? There’s an extra dimension to this story: in China, grassroots and nonprofit are almost unknown phenomena, so there is no supportive structure, though no lack of prejudices and misunderstandings. So we are pioneers indeed.
However, this blog is NOT ONLY about Prop Roots! This is supposed to be my PERSONAL blog! Our project lies at the heart of what I do, and I aim to make everything I do contribute to it. But...
I am still trying to be an artist. Painting and making music is still everything for me. I’m not a snobby person. My work can inspire grownups that seek fresh, original things, just as it has good influence on the kids. Despite doing Prop Roots, and having burnt all our ships and that, I still continue working on my personal art thing. Persistently.
And there’s the science thing. I am fascinated about all kinds of metaphysical science: how the brain works, consciousness, time, chaos, information theory, quantum field theory, you name it. I think no-one can afford to remain science illiterate, with all those mind-blowing developments going on! Moreover: humanity is up to some far-reaching paradigm shifts, soon enough!
Here’s some of my recent music, a rather thoughtful, introspective piece.
Next time I will tell more about how I came to be a Chinese, 25 years ago, and how I first arrived in the Zaiwa area, back in 1991. I give away right now that I am the world’s main linguistic expert on this language, after spending many years of fieldwork in the Zaiwa villages. I got my PhD degree in 2002 at Leiden University and my Grammar and Dictionary of Zaiwa (1700 pages in 2 volumes) was published in 2010. I am done with linguistics now. I mention it because that was an important part of the story that got my wife and I into doing Prop Roots.
"Good for All is Always the Best"
My wife may be able to express it more succinctly than that, but I would say that “Good for all” here refers to bringing together a near maximum variety of cultures, languages and disciplines, worlds that normally would hardly be able to meet, and that we should try to make the best out of that. My aim is to unify Pure Creativity with serious and substantial grassroots community work, on a unique crossroads between a large variety of cultures, languages and disciplines. I get inspiration both from explorers past the borders of our Fundamental science and universal mammalian warmth and hospitality. Subscribe to my blog and I will share with you what’s happening in and around our Children’s activity, Art and Cultural center, here in our Jingpo/Zaiwa village in the highly multi-ethnic China-Myanmar borderland, and how everything comes together and interacts within my tiny little head.
studio / activity space, when still under construction
No need for fantasizing when working on this blog. All the exiting stuff is already here around me.
I only need to tie the knots together.