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Colette Fu: Documenting Yunnan's minorities

By in Features on

As a teen growing up in the United States in the 1980s, photographer and artist Colette Fu (傅三三) went out of her way to alter her appearance and identity in hopes of reducing her 'Chineseness'. Today, Fu has returned to her Chinese –and Yi – roots on a quest to document all 25 of Yunnan's officially recognized ethnic minorities.

Fu and her camera have been traveling throughout Yunnan for nearly a year on a Fulbright grant to support a photographic pop-up book introducing Yunnan's minorities, everyone from the Akha to the Zhuang.

This is the second time for Fu to live in Yunnan, where her mother – a member of the Yi ethnic minority – was born. It was in 1993 while teaching at Yunnan Minority Institute in Kunming that Colette took interest in her Yi ancestry. Coincidentally, her great-grandfather, once a powerful leader among the Black Yi branch of the Yi, was one of the founders of Yunnan Minority Institute.

After learning enough Chinese to travel around Yunnan alone, Fu began to explore Yunnan's ethnic diversity, taking photos wherever she went. This time around, she has kept an extensive photo blog featuring photos and collages of the unique cultural smorgasbord that is Yunnan.

"My foremost goal is to inform and promote awareness of existence of Yunnan's minorities, who are changing quickly despite being widely inaccessible or even unknown to people outside of China," Fu said.

"For me, this project is a highly personal one as I am descended from the Yi," she said. "An old Yi man told me, 'Although an eagle flies far into the distance, its wings will fold back. For the Yi, the ultimate goal of life is to find the path of your ancestors.'"

Colette Fu has provided GoKunming with a collection of photos of different minorities she has taken photos of during her travels around Yunnan, which can be viewed in the GoKunming photo gallery under the tag Colette Fu.

GoKunming thanks Colette for her contribution – if you would like to contribute photos or other content to GoKunming, please contact us via the GoKunming contact form.

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