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Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region

May 18, 2019 - June 1, 2019
Urumqi Grand Bazaar
Urumqi Grand Bazaar

These are photographs from different sites and cities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. My parents grew up in this region, and they go back every year to take care of their parents and relatives. This trip was my first time back in five years, but even from a distance, I was aware of the region’s growing reputation and transformation through the media. Conflict between ethnic groups here has resulted in new policies and the creation of minority-specific, detention camps. These camps have provoked ethical questioning and attention from a global audience. Learning about this issue from news on the Western Hemisphere, I was forming intense assumptions of what I was expecting to see during my trip. 

And the trip itself was intense. I was observing and experiencing a society managed under rules and laws which were foreign to me. While media tropes depicting mass surveillance and security were easy to see in these conditions, my attention veered towards how Xinjiang’s conflict management has peoples’ affected daily lives. Public spaces have become quieter, formal identification was required to enter and exit all locations, only one place in the capital of Urumqi served naan from a real oven, and though tourism is thriving, this industry was just cringely artificial. Five years away from Xinjiang has shown a drastic difference to me. 

My aesthetic and cultural interests were therefore focused on change, newness, and preservation from my limited, but personal knowledge of Xinjiang’s history. This series documents meaningful moments and explorations with my family.

May 21:
Our first stops after settling in were at the graveyards where my grandfather and great-grandmother are buried. 

May 22:
We stayed in Urumqi for about three days at this point. My sister asked our parents to buy a skateboard because we were bored, and we went to the park next our grandparents’ apartment complex to learn how to skateboard. The park had one, accessible entrance, and inside, it was near vacant.

May 24:
Our uncle arranged a day trip to Bole for my sister and I. This city is a bordertown in Xinjiang, close to Kazahkstan, and the climate is less arid than that of the capital city, Urumqi. The air immediately felt cleansing once we stepped off the plane, as did the greater presence of security. 

more to come... currently in progress