Have you ever lived abroad? How did people respond to you as a foreigner? What were some of the sights and experiences that you are grateful to have had due to your living — not simply tourist-ing — abroad? What comparisons and contrasts did you make between the foreign culture and your own? What were some of the odd experiences? The things that made you laugh out loud?
In Chinese, the word, “Waiguoren” means foreigner. And because China is a somewhat closed culture, it’s not uncommon for some locals to stare, point, or yell, “WAIGUOREN!”when seeing a foreigner.
“At times, being a foreigner in China can be a bit like being a woman with breasts growing out of her forehead. Despite people’s best intentions, conversations all seem to be about one topic.
“Living as an expat ‘WAIGUOREN!’in Suzhou, China regularly opens my mind to wonder, despite the routine reminders of the cultural us/them dynamic specific to the situation. I’ve experienced a greater intimacy with East Asian temple culture, for example, celebrating festivals in Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian temples. Every day I see something new — something that stops me in my tracks— and opens my mind to the marvels of the world about us: things like seeing Western Christian architecture in the Far East; the cultural diversity found in the expat community; the growth of this paradoxical city with one foot in the old and one in the new; and the exuberant brilliance of current global trends in architecture.
“As an expat, there is, of course, that ubiquitous ‘us/them’ dynamic. However, there’s something very special about overcoming the cultural rigidity of that dynamic and finding — with new friends— the commonality of laughter.”
“WAIGUOREN!”: Suzhou Through a Foreigner’s Eyes (外国人) is a series of paintings that communicate the experience of the subtle tension of the insider/outsider dynamic of a foreigner living abroad, specifically in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China. Examples of “WAIGUOREN!”can be found in the art catalogue Dave Alber: Travel Art 2018: Part 1: Intimations.
2018 Gouache on paper 10 x 7.61 in Suzhou Center...Read More
2018 Gouache on paper 12 x 10 in Eating with...Read More
Dave Alber is a Travel Painter whose illustrations have appeared most recently in That’s Shanghai, Suzhou Review, Open Magazine, and Nepali Renaissance. His comic “Bedding Shanghai” was featured in the 2018 Shanghai International Literary Festival’s Erotic Fiction Contest. For a limited time, Dave’s art catalogue Dave Alber: Travel Art: 2018 Part 1: Intimations can be preordered for free at DaveAlber.com. Longer bio and Artist Statement here.
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