We Are Tiger Dragon People
Since 2008, Philadelphia artist Colette Fu has been creatively documenting her ancestral heritage – the Yi and neighboring tribes of southwestern China. Although a Chinese descendant, Fu, born in the United States, describes herself as “completely Americanized” yet struggled with her identity and sense of self. Upon college graduation, she decided to move to China where she taught English at Yunnan Nationalities University in the capital city of Kunming, “the City of Eternal Spring.” She chose the Yunnan Province because it was her mother’s birthplace where she could learn first-hand her family’s history. Over the 3 years that Fu spent in China, she traveled to many villages and experienced the rich and varied cultural traditions among multiple ethnic groups including her own Yi tribe. On her return to the United States, she was determined to artistically document the lives of her ancestors in order to “provide a brief portrait of their existence, in a small way helping to preserve their identities and ways of life.” Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, Fu returned to China to document the 25 ethnic minority groups that still reside in Yunnan Province. Through a combination of photography and pop-up books, Fu shares her visions of Yunnan, the most biologically and culturally diverse province in China. As an older Yi man told her, “For the Yi, the ultimate goal of life is to find the path of your ancestors.” For Fu, her artwork is the path to her ancestors and she hopes that others are intrigued by their unique visual stories.