Hi Shiya, how are you? I'm happy to host you at 2chairs, you're our first guest from another part of the world. Please, introduce yourself, what you are doing now and what was your starting point.
I am an artist and creative producer living and working in Sydney. I grew up in Sichuan, Southwest China and moved to the UK at 16. In 2012, I dropped out of the University of Oxford, where I studied mathematics and returned to China. At the time, I was battling depression and had no idea what to do with my life. To keep myself busy, I volunteered at an arts festival in China and met a group of inspiring artists. A choreographer, who later became my close friend and collaborator, said to me: "You ought to shine a light into the darkness in your heart and turn it into art." From there on, I began working as a cultural journalist and then a performing arts producer. Over the past eight years, I have worked with many renowned artists and organisations in China, Australia, Norway, the UK, Finland, and Belgium. Since relocating to Australia five years ago, I started my own artistic practice in theatre and visual arts while working for other artists as a producer.
So, you were born in China but studied in the UK. Is it a typical story for Chinese children?
I wouldn't say it is typical, but more and more middle-class Chinese parents aspire to send their children to study abroad so that they can broaden their horizons and have more opportunities in life.
Do you remember what forced you to change your subject from maths to theatre? Did your family support you?
Growing up in the Chinese educational system, I was conditioned to pursue academic excellence and material success to make my family proud. The weight of other people's expectations can lead to psychological trauma in young people. After finishing high school, I took a gap year and did volunteering and backpacking, which opened my worldview and made me realise that there are many alternative ways of living a meaningful life. When I commenced studying at a prestigious university, I realised that my interest was not mathematics. I decided to follow my heart and search for my true passion. I am so grateful that my family believed in me and supported me every step along the way.