The exhibition ‘China’s Forgotten Kingdom’ focuses on the artistic identity of the Naxi ethnic minority from the Yunnan region in South West China. The Naxi people are unique, their language and artwork centers around picture characters rather than traditional Chinese script and also reads left to right, as English does. The picture language, Dongba script, is made up of more than 2,500 pictographs and is one of the few visual languages still in use today.
A number of people, including the Naxi artists and Chinese dignitaries attended the launch and opening exhibition in the evening. Earlier in the day, He Limin, the leading Dongba Priest in China, performed the opening ceremony. In preparation he constructed a written pictograph blessing especially for the University of Northampton, which uses the Dongba pictograph, which he read when performing the ceremony. The ceremony called upon the 28 Dongba Gods to bless the exhibition. The friendships and collaborations that have, and will emerge, were blessed with good health and prosperity. In Dongba culture, this blessing is very important and it can be used to assist with down to earth challenges such as blessing a new house, an expectant child or even the return to good health on someone who is ill.
Paul Middleton, Executive Dean of the School of The Arts at the University of Northampton, commented: “We are delighted to host the exhibition of the Naxi people and particularly the work of the artists who base their work on the unique Dongba Pictograph – a 2,500 image alphabet with origins that have routes in the region’s cave drawings. This is unique as it provides a ‘living breathing’ visual language that presents great potential for new ground breaking research.
“Imagine if we could meet the people who created and used the Egyptian Hieroglyph and you begin to understand the opportunities that are presented. We are excited that the University of Northampton is leading on this research work that will have international impact.”
The exhibition forms part of a larger programme of work between the University of Northampton, the Communications University of China in Beijing, Lijiang digital media centre for Naxi Dongba Culture and the Chinese Government. Twenty students and staff from the University have recently visited China and worked to catalogue the ancient cave paintings by the Naxi people in the Leaping Tiger Gorge, south west China.
The exhibition will be shown at the University of Northampton until 12 April 2013.