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Artist recalls teaching ceramics in Lesotho

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)

08:23, July 23, 2012

A Chinese artist teaches a student how to make ceramic items in Maseru, Lesotho, in January. Pan Zhenhui/for China Daily

In June 2011, Pan Jingxin got a phone call that launched his adventure in southern Africa, where he was almost killed.

The call was from the cultural authority of Foshan, Guangdong province. The 53-year-old senior artist with the Guangdong Bolin Ceramic Research Institute was asked to go to Africa and help teach people there how to make ceramic items.

"I was not surprised at all," Pan said. "In the past few years, news had gotten around that a lot of experts were sent by the Ministry of Culture to Africa to help people there."

The authority briefed him that he was going to Lesotho with another two experts.

Pan had never been to Africa. All that he knew about the continent came from the media, the books and people he knew. In his mind, Africa was a far-away place of poverty and violence, Pan said.

"I was very glad to be helpful, and as soon as I got the phone call, I started preparing for the journey," Pan said.

Foshan is called the "ceramics capital" of China because of its long history and awe-inspiring achievements in ceramics, and Pan has been in the industry for his entire life.

He searched the city for the best clay, glazes, furnaces, and other materials and tools to take with them to Lesotho.

On Jan 3, Pan flew to Lesotho with two other experts. When he arrived in the small airport of Maseru, the capital and largest city, Pan was astonished.

"The airport was very shabby. The planes there looked like those of China in the 1960s," Pan said.

The group was taken to a college, where they would hold classes for the next 40 days.

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