Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
First there was a reception with Great Wall 80-Proof Vodka, Great Wall beer and Winemasters, an American champagne.
Next came a banquet for 200 persons with 10 main dishes to celebrate Sunday the opening of an exhibit of Chinese peasant paintings at Howard University and to reaffirm cultural exchanges.
"That is authentic," said Archie Lang, a former Foreign Service officer, marveling at a scene of a bank. "It looks exactly like that, sometimes with two or three tables doing business at once." Standing by his side taking notes in Chinese characters was Sha Shung-tse, a professor at the University of the District of Columbia. "All of this reminds me of my own country life in Northeast China," he said.
The show, a collection of pictures from Hubsien County, has been traveling in the United States since last December. Originally, it wasn't scheduled for Washington. But, "after I saw this show at the Brooklyn Museum I thought it would be a perfect extension of our policy to expose different cultures. So I fought to get the show here," explained Starmanda Bullock, director of Howard's art faculty.
"At first they only wanted to give us prints. But we decided this was so new and exciting we had to have the entire program," said Chi Lau, a member of Howard's art faculty.
Throughout the gallery, spurts of rapid Chinese underscored the familiarity of scenes of work, play and politics. Chai Tse-min, chief of the liaison office of China here, stood in line greeting the artists, professors and members of the U.S.-China People's Friendship Association, the sponsors of the exhibit.
Standing back from the canvases, Junella Haynes, a native (Indian) American member of the association's national committee, said, "I'm already seeing the comparison to the art of the native American working class. It's goemetric, with some three-dimensional qualities and vividly colored. Now the native-American artists are depicting the contemporary world." That, she said, is what makes the Chinese art exciting.
At the banquet, held at the university's Dumbarton campus, Chai Tse-min spoke of the resurgence of art in his country under the late Chairman Mao. Then he proposed a toast of white American wine to "the hope that many more American friends will visit China in the future."
Another speaker, Unita Blackwell, mayor of Mayersville, Miss., and a co-chairperson of the association, described her two trips to China. The first she made with actress Shirley MacLaine. "I came back with a hope for America, having seen another oppressed situation."
When her friends quiz her about her travels to China, Blackwell replies, "Why not?It represents one-fifth of the world's population. And also, it helps me relate to the American mentality because I've seen that the process of saving a culture can work."
Mary Chandler, president of the local chapter of the friendship association, was being shown at Howard. It's a "people's exhibit," she said, "and Howard is a university for many peoples."