Saturday, March 10, 2012

The People's Republic of Deptford

This poster caught my eye earlier today. Based on a genuine People's Republic of China (PRC) propaganda poster of the 1950s or early 60s the woman depicted is probably Liang Jun. Liang was born into a poor peasant family in Mingshui, Heilongjiang Province in 1930. After liberation from Japanese occupation in 1945 Liang was one of the first to benefit from the educational opportunities afforded by the Communist Party of China (CPC). In 1948 the school at which Liang was studying was offered three places on a tractor drivers course. Liang put her name forward and was accepted, not realising she would be the only woman on the course. The state propaganda machine picked up Liang quickly and she featured in primary school textbooks as early as 1949. During the 1950s Liang combined attendance at party events with teaching other women tractor drivers, she was received by both Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. In 1960 Liang became deputy director general of the Agricultural Bureau in Xiangfang District in Harbin Province and rose to be General Engineer of the Province's Agricultural Machinery Department. From 1962 Liang featured on the back of the People's Bank of China 1 yuan banknotes.

Further information on Liang Jun can be found here, here and here.

The story of Liang Jun does come with a caveat. Tina Mai Chen's essay Film and Gender in Sino-Soviet Cultural Exchange, 1949-1969 in Thomas P Bernstein and Hua-Yu Li's China learns from the Soviet Union, 1949 - present asserts the following:

"...Liang Jun, who was officially recognised as China's first female tractor driver, was a woman well known to Chinese because her story was featured in the national Chinese press on numerous occasions. Liang Jun incorporated into her well-rehearsed and officially sanctioned life narrative the inspiration she received from watching the Soviet Film Tractor Drivers and from specific Soviet female characters like Dasha who drove a tank against the German invaders after her family was killed in the film She Defends the Motherland"

Back to today's poster; Blurt are playing at the Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, London SE8 4RZ, 8.00pm Sunday 11th March 2012. Admission Free.

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