Monthly Archives: January 2008

Native? Immigrant? Cosmopolitan? Expatriate?

Dinu replies to my e-mail asking whether he considers himself a native, immigrant, cosmopolitan, or expatriate:

 `I don’t consider myself a native. I feel I am somewhere in-between an immigrant and a cosmopolitan – the former more so when I am in the UK, whilst the latter when I travel around making work.

As for expat – this is something I’d like to claim. As I have got older, I am wondering why I am never called an expat, and only ever called an immigrant. This feels unwelcoming. The fact is, I have what I consider a nice house, I have a white girlfriend, I have nice trips all over the country and sometimes I like getting drunk in town. This is more or less the lifestyle I see other expats living, wherever in the world I see them.’

Departure, Dinu Li, Sheffield Train Station, England, 13 January 2008

How many footsteps have brought us here?

The Drawing of a Bird, The Back of an Old Receipt, and Two Porcelain Pandas, Dinu Li, Sheffield Train Station, 13 January 2008

`A memento from when I was about 5. My mum had been shopping and bought some soy sauce and oyster sauce. When she came home I asked her to draw a little chicken on the back of the receipt. This drawing has always been with me since then.’

…………….

`One day I was sulking. To stop me sulking my mum took me shopping. We went to a big store and I selected these two pandas.’

`A Photograph of My Mother as a Young Woman’, Dinu Li, Sheffield, 13 January 2008

`The photograph shows her with my second oldest brother. It’s a photograph of them in China. I did not use the photograph in my book [The Mother of All Journeys, 2007]. Something about it was almost too precious to share in a book.’

`It’s a photograph of her in her twenties; very young. She is squatting on a path with my brother. The photograph is literally outside the main gate of her village. And the path leads you out of the village, towards the city’.

`Why the hell would I throw it away?’, Dinu Li, Sheffield Railway Station, 13 January 2008

`I know very well that the first item I would have to save would be this quilt blanket. It’s a blanket that all my siblings have always complained about because it’s really old. I guess many people like to throw away old things and replace them with new things. This is particularly true of Chinese Culture. Every New Year, they want to have a big Spring clean and throw things away; a sort of ritual of regeneration. But I’m kind of a melancholic person. I like to hold onto things and not throw things away. Hence, my house looks like a tip, because I like to just keep everything. And, the thing I have always wanted to keep is this blanket that the rest of the family wants to throw away.

`Why the blanket is so important is that, when we were quite poor, in Hong Kong, I just remember we kept the ends of fabric that was being used to make pyjamas. Basically, my parents worked in an underwear and pyjama factory in Hong Kong. There was a whole period when they were both making pyjamas. They took home all the unused end cuts and they became the patches making up this blanket. I remember we helped them stitch the blanket together. Why the hell would I throw it away?’

The Priority, Dinu Li, Sheffield Railway Station, 13 January 2008

`The Priority for me was to imagine what I would salvage if my house suddenly burned down.’

Vanishing Point, Dinu Li, Sheffield Railway Station, 13 January 2008

`Standing at the platform brought back a visual memory of my brother and sister, who had already emigrated to the U. K. a couple of years before I did. When I got off the train as a seven year-old I distinctly remember that they ran across the platform to greet me. They were full of excitement. Today, I think that image replayed itself in my memory.’