Creative Anthropology

As an anthropologist, you have to be creative in the way you obtain your data. Only interviewing people is not enough. Otther, more creative ways, may be very tiredsome, and they might lead to nothing. But at least you would have tried. And the mere absence of the thing that interests you is also a valuable insight.

With this in mind, I put on my hiking shoes, put my backpack on my back (in it some extra water, of course today – of all days – has to be a very hot, humid day  again), and leave for the metro station. About one hour later I arrive in Tai Po, a station very near to the border with mainland China. Here, I take the minibus to my destination: A site where they are building the biggest statue of Guanyin in the world (76 meters high). The statue is being built  on a hillside, overlooking Pover Clove, and will be finishes in 2013.

From far away, I can already see the statue. Guanyin’s head is already finished; the rest of her body is still covered in bamboo contruction poles. It looks like she is wearing a robe made of bamboo poles. She is looking down, no doubt enjoying the beautiful view in front of her.

I step out of the bus and walk towards the entrance of the site. I am stopped by a security guard: “non unauthorized persons” are not allowed at the construction site. Even though I look at the man very friendly and nearby beg him, he is not letting me in.

Okay, time to get more creative than this; time for plan B. I decide to walk around the site, to see if there are other ways in. To no avail. It is hard to get close to the statue, because of thick bushes on the one side, villages on the other, and more sign board indicating that “non authorized people” are not allowed in.

Perhaps Plan C will work. I walk towards the villages surrounding the site with my camera in my hand. Whenever I know people see me (there are not many foreigners here) I first look very interested to the statue, take a few pictures, smile at the people and say ‘hello’, indicating that I would like to talk to them. Unfortunately – again – no luck. The people in this area seem quite non-aware of the existence of the statue; or perhaps even hostile towards it.

After an hour or so, I give up. My legs are sore from walking, I have made at least a hundred pictures (most of which look exactly the same), and I have gained 21 fresh mosquito bites on my legs and arms. I walk towards the bus station and begin my journey back home, destined to start Plan D as soon as possible: Trying to find out who has ordered to built this statue, contact him/her, and have him/her take me to the site, thereby loosing by “non authorized person” status.

I will keep you posted on it!


3 thoughts on “Creative Anthropology

  1. Pingback: Creative Anthropology « Religious anthropology in Hong Kong

  2. Pingback: Standing at the bottom of her feet, looking up | Religious anthropology in Hong Kong

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