I come from Xinjiang — my camera speaks for my hometown
As a cinematographer and photographer in the Documentary Channel of CCTV China, Kurbanjan Samat repaint the image of Uyghur ethnic minority by his newly published photographic book <I come from Xinjiang>.
Image Crisis of Xinjiang
Xinjiang, officially the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, located in Northwest part of China. As the biggest province of the country, Xinjiang is home for over 10 million Uyghur and 12 other ethnic groups like Han, Kazakhs, Tajiks and Mongols. Uyghur are Turkic ethnic group and most of them are Muslim believers.
After the establishment of People’s Republic of China, the large scale of Han immigration from East China have reached to the 40% of the region population. After 5th of July 2009 Riot(Biggest riot between Uyghur and Han Chinese, caused more than 300 people died), Uyghur and Xinjiang have been related to discourses like ’Terrorism’ and ‘Extremism’ on the coverages.
Constant conflicts between Uyghur and Han Chinese after 2009 bring more negative reports about Xinjiang, which triggered even more misunderstanding and bias towards Uyghur society. This vicious circle has made the ethnic group relationship in China as fragile as never before, and also, Xinjiang has become a place that everyone scared of and turn their face of.
People from Xinjiang faced the most difficult time in the history, they cannot register to a hotel in other provinces or cities; they were not allowed to using the interment at the public internet service centres; they were even drew away from their rented room just because they have a ‘Xinjiang’ marked on their identity.
<I come from Xinjiang>
At this crucial point, <I come from Xinjiang> just like a connecting bridge that finally appears between two vague sides of the river that people from both sides desperately wanted to know each other.
Famous CCTV reporter Yansong Bai recommended this book on his Sina blog and said: “When I watching the news, I feel Xinjiang is a strange land far away from us. But when I saw this book, Xinjiang is so familiar for me. I don’t know what improvement would this book bring, but I do now that the reality of publishing this book itself is the biggest improvement that we got in these years”.
This book is about the stories of 100 ordinary people who are originally from Xinjiang but now living in the other part of China. In the book, except sharing the same hometown — Xinjiang, all of the characters belongs to 13 different ethnic groups like Uyghur, Han, Mongol, Tajik and they are from all walks of life. By telling their stories with simple words and simple pictures, Kurbanjan presented the actual diversity of Xinjiang to the whole country.
The first edition published in December 2014, Kurbanjan and his book aroused a strong repercussion in the Chinese society. There are hundreds of books were written about Xinjiang every year. Why this one is different?
After the 2009 July conflict and the terror attack in Kunming 2013, Uyghur society and Xinjiang has become the common enemy in social media and indignant public opinion pouring towards them all through the country.
Xinjiang is mysterious and exotic for most of the outsider, and now, it’s dangerous. Kurbanjan’s book made a fabulous impact on the society. By telling the ordinary lives of the Xinjiang people in the book, he managed to fill the gap between East China and Xinjiang.
He introduced Uyghur dancer in Beijing, fighting for her dream as an international belly dancer; a Han businessman who become a Muslim believer after spent 3 year in Kazakhstan; a Uyghur middle-aged man who sells kabab for 20 years in Beijing to earn money for his illness son who requires the special care for the rest of his life; a Han journalist who is working for the Radio station in Beijing; a Mongol couple who earn their living by singing in the pub; A Xibe ethnic woman who does trading business with Russian customers.
With 100 different stories, Kurbanjan successfully presented the diversity of Xinjiang and challenged the alienated stereotype to Uyghurs, this book shows the strong power of the media. All of the characters in his book reflect the reality of the common life with their happiness, worries and dreams.
There are huge response from both Uyghur and Han ethnic groups after the publicity of this book. The internet version of the book had been shared more than 15 million times online. The Famous actor Jackie Chen recommend this book:” One hundred stories just like 100 movies about love and peace”.
“Before reading this book, all I can think about Xinjiang is the delicious food and exotic culture, also a very dangerous place with terrorists. <I come from China> start to change my mind towards Xinjiang. I hope I will have chance to be there in the future”. Yao, a graduate student from University of Westminster said about this book.
Kurbanjan sent a message to the whole country: We are all the same hard working Chinese citizen making effort to get a better life. Only by communicating, we can understand and respect each other. After all, this is the common future we need to peruse for Uyghur, Han and whole country.