March 23 2014: Apple Daily (Hong Kong)


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Source: Apple Daily (Hong Kong)

Remembering a generation of Resistance War Cartoonist – Huang Yao

“Granddad, how is it when other refugees can’t even get a train ticket or have to be on top of train carriages, you have 20 pieces of luggage?” This is the young Carolyn who did not understand part of her grandfather’s story. “How come grandma teases you as a jailbird?” is another question Carolyn remembers. If an artists is in jail, how is it funny? While growing up Carolyn carried these questions with her When her grandmother passed away in 1998, her family started to organize the works left behind by her grandfathers thus began the journey of understanding her grandfather as a political cartoonist hero who fought for the people of his country.

“Actually in the 20 cases of luggage were drawings by children of Niubizi and they were being dropped off in different cities along the train route, it was part of boosting the morale of the people during the war and possibly another reason why Huang Yao was a target to be acquired by the Japanese [for propaganda work]”.

When Carolyn left her career in banking, she spent her time looking for his old friends and works that may have been left behind as well as examine and try to understand his works, continuing a conversation with her grandfather.

When Huang Yao lived in Malaysia, he did a number of Nanyang landscapes, sometimes with these paintings the accompanying inscription is a poem from Tao Yuan Ming. [In her youth], Carolyn had read Niubizi cartoons, the round face and round nose and round ears with close likeness to her grandfather. “In the cartoons I read, there was also a very naughty boy, that is loosely based off my father”.

Carolyn is very interested in her grandfather’s story and still has many gaps of understanding to fill. She remembers that he used to draw sketches for her to color. Before he took his naps, he would read Tang Poems and when he woke up, he would be painting again. Carolyn believed that everyone’s granddad was also an artist.

Xian Incident, Resistance War

“When we knew Niubizi, he was already a plump, older person, as we had not ever seen the Niubizi of the 1930s and 1940s, our family did not understand much of our grandfather’s experience in China. Only in 1999 did we first see his cartoons from 1934 to 1947 and was surprised that the early Niubizi was that of a much younger person”. These findings filled some gaps in their understanding. In 1933, the 16 year old Huang Yao was already working for one of the largest Shanghai newspapers, The Xinwen Bao as a journalist. A year later he created Niubizi. Niubizi’s appearance and attitude as well as humor were a new look on Chinese cartoons and had roots in Chinese culture. He wanted to break the misconception that “China was the sick man of Asia”, Niubizi in “If I were…” could also portray the Monkey God, which could represent a different brave face of the Chinese people.

In this way, Niubizi continually fought for his people’s rights and became their hero. In April of 1937, Huang Yao invited children to use Niubizi to express themselves and their dreams. In less than 3 months, he received over 2,000 works and also created “Niu Tou Magazine” to publish the works submitted by children. “The simple construction of Niubizi was a serious consideration for my granddad as he loved children and hoped that in the war, they do not lose their dreams. In the beginning of the war, he did use cartoons to encourage people to join the military to fight the invaders”.

Niubizi is upright and brave gentleman. “My granddad was not afraid to speak his opinions”. It is said that Huang Yao left Shanghai because of politics. “In actuality, my granddad was rather influential and would have been used by the Japanese propaganda if he was captured”. In those years of turmoil and challenge as a political artist, her grandfather’s experience and hardships, like being in jail had later become a humorous topic discussed over family meal times.

One of the cartoons she described, “he had drawn a cartoons suggesting that the two opposing parties, the KMT and the Communist party should cooperate, shortly after that the Xian incident happened and Chiang Kai Shek agreed to work with the Communists to fight the Japanese”. Her grandfather was under inquiry and probably asked, “how did you know that this is what would happen?”

Carolyn’s grandmother’s father was a military man and she was afraid to tell her father that she was going to marry this artist, although she knew she was marrying a hero. Huang Yao himself had written that he was really tired of war. When the war ended, perhaps as the officials in Shanghai were corrupt, the Huang family headed to Hanoi, unfortunately they met with the French-Vietnam war there and lost everything. The family became refugees again.

Recluse following example of Tao Yuanming

Huang Yao left China in 1947 after exhibiting the “Contradiction Collection” in Kunming and Guangzhou. In Hong Kong, he published “Hong Kong Niubizi”, reflecting on the differences between the rich and poor and other problems in society. At the beginning of the Korean War in 1951, Huang Yao left for Thailand and stayed there for 5 years until he finally arrived and lived in Malaysia. “When he suffered 2 strokes between 1981 to 1983, his brushstrokes were no more well controlled for drawing the best of human figures, he began to concentrate more on landscapes”. Was he still concerned about politics? “Of course, during the cultural revolution, although he was in Nanyang, he was always worried about his friends in China.” Then she explained that her grandfather often painted poems of Tao Yuanming, Wang Anshi, perhaps he like them, disappointed and left the political stage and continued painting but he anxious about the country. When Huang Yao passed away in 1987, Carolyn was only 17.Her grandfather probably wanted shield her about the truth of the cruelty of war and destroy her innocence. He hid his feelings in his calligraphy and paintings, but is now being unveiled. Fortunately, Carolyn’s mother has mathematics background and was able to categorize his artworks. Her brother is color blind and has no interest in paintings. So this puzzle of her grandfather’s life was left to Carolyn to solve. It has been a journey of over ten years. “I found the publisher of his early cartoons; visited the cities he stayed and found that he had friends all over the place. Zhou Shaoang [the well known painter] was his neighbor, they all told me he was a chivalrous man.”

The memories of Carolyn by the side of her grandfather are like gentle waves and come back to her at the smell of pine ink.

Source: Apple Daily(Hong Kong)




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