BEIJING, Feb. 22, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from Beijing Review:
The past decade has seen big changes in Xinjiang, the Uygur autonomous region in northwest China where over 50 percent of locals hail from ethnic minority groups. Kurbanjan Samat, Uygur native and well-known documentary maker, honored his own commitment to publishing a series of documentaries and accompanying books on the people of the region to battle the external bias against his hometown.
Perception and preconception
The series’ latest literary installment, entitled Jiang Lai (The Future of Xinjiang), appeared on shelves in March, 2022, presenting an overarching conclusion to Samat’s Xinjiang trilogy: I Am From Xinjiang on the Silk Road (2014), I Am Going to Xinjiang (2018), and I Am From China (2019).
Samat launched his series around 2012 against the backdrop of a general global misunderstanding of Xinjiang following several terrorist attacks in the region. People with little-to-no knowledge of the region tended to get nervous when coming face to face with Xinjiang residents, particularly after the attack in the capital of Urumqi on July 5, 2009, which caused 197 deaths and injured over 1,700.
The first book and accompanying documentary I Am From Xinjiang on the Silk Road (2014) present life through local eyes, digging into the stereotypes that color people’s preconceived notions on the region. The film garnered 20 million hits online within the first week of its release and won Samat several “outstanding documentarian” awards across China.
“We all come into the world as crying babies and we will all return to nature after we die, only in different ways,” Samat told Beijing Review. “We need to think about human nature—regardless of ethnicity and skin tone.”
He decided to write his second book, I Am Going to Xinjiang, as he strongly felt the Uygur alone could not possibly represent a region that is home to all of China’s 56 ethnic groups. This work included the 26 stories of both Chinese living in and foreigners moving to Xinjiang, a developing region that had been receiving financial aid and talent from other provinces for decades at that time—and a key feature along the Silk Road since ancient times.
“I wanted the second book to deliver the message that Xinjiang is a safe and appealing place for many who would like to study, or settle down, here,” Samat said.
In the last book of the series, he took his search worldwide, looking for Xinjiang people across the continents. Having visited dozens of countries himself, and with a few accolades to his name, Samat met more and more Xinjiang people living abroad, willing to share their stories with him. His third book, I Am From China, came into being in 2019, some 40 years after China had opened its doors to the world.
Between 2012 and 2022, Samat became father to two boys and lost his own father, yet diligently continued his self-designated task to shoot Xinjiang and its people through his lens.
Samat considers Jiang Lai the “summarization” of his trilogy. He revisited a dozen of interviewees from the first book some 10 years after their lives first crossed paths, and life had indeed changed a lot over the decade. These new stories reflect their individual transformation—and that of Xinjiang by large.
The region has seen no terrorist incidents since 2017, and many people would now like to go and take in the charisma of Xinjiang themselves thanks to millions sharing visual tales of its beauty and uniqueness online.
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SOURCE Beijing Review