Week 11 Of Bamboo and Birds


Yunnan Bamboo Oil on Canvas150x115cm Niamh Cunningham 倪芙瑞莲 2014


Yesterday, I saw a dramatic display of  mandarin ducks in flight. Many  Mandarin Ducks choose to spend winter in Beijing,  some  perch in nests near  the staff residential area for the Environmental Protection and Greening Bureau.

     On the campus, there are two bamboo forests of which I am very fond.  One is in front of the catering college. The tall bamboo stalks are dense, and not easily visible. It is a paradise for many small birds (including larger birds)- birds of Paradise so to speak. The second is a small bamboo forest between buildings 7 and 6 where the kittens often hide and play where I have also witnessed little hedgehogs foraging at night.

      A less comforting thought is about the trees in the residential and teaching  area which   have been altered. I have seen the top trunks of sycamore, willow and poplar trees topped  off with a crane, with many other main branches trimmed  . Also noticable is the centre  of each tree is tied a yellow peeling tape around its trunk circumference which suggests “insect prevention”. More challenging is to witness all the poplar trees between the residential buildings appear to be undergoing a slow death . Originally  the tree height reached beyond the fifth floor, but now most trees have been sawn off  before reaching the 4th floor with sky replacing foliage. Yet even in the midst of this newfound sky, but the trees strive to sprout and branch out once more.

     Su Shi ( Song dynasty)   wrote an essay about Mrs. Xian’s “No Birds and Birds”, and concluded that, “From the birds  perspective , those who are not nested  those birds dare not approach people, as people are no better than snakes or rats.”

Tiger. ‘Faith!’

Xiao Jun March 2020

Memory Palace of Trees 2020 is an ecological art practice which invites your participation to tell a story (or give some kind of information) about trees. It is a social enquiry of how to live better with the planet and with people. You are cordially invited to tell me your story of a tree or trees. (email : niamh@niamhcunningham.com) I would love to hear from you . Each week throughout 2020 a story will be posted with either an artwork already made or perhaps your story will inspire me to make a new work!