bentu has woven a series of nests onto living bamboo branches within a dense forest in qingshen, china. the improvised structures, which have been built straight onto bamboo still rooted in the ground, are part of an experiment called ‘the nest’, acknowledging the origins of bamboo weaving by tracing the art back to its most natural form.
all images courtesy of bentu
qingshen county is an ancient town with a unique environment of humid climate and fertile soil. as a result acres and acres of bamboo have grown here and generations have passed on surrounded by bamboo for thousands of years. by not harvesting the bamboo bentu preserves the roots in the depth of the land, keeping its living state intact and symbolically honoring the area’s traditional art of bamboo weaving.
looking down from the sky, farmlands and bamboo forests cover half of the town. nearly 80% of the 200 thousand total population is still rural, it seems that the rapid construction of modern urbanization nationwide has not yet arrived on this small land. but changes have been quietly undertaking. bamboo weaving products used to bring steady income to the townees, which is now losing the advantages under the economic globalization with increasingly fierce market competition and product homogenization.
the market of bamboo weaving has changed in recent years, seeing an abnormal development accelerated by the excessive pursuit of economic value. as a result, the time-consuming and less profitable bamboo weaving is no longer appealing to the younger generation of people entering the workforce. the vulnerability and stagnation of qingshen’s bamboo weaving art in the new era is a result of the collapse of farming civilization that has been rooted in the past.
located in the dense bamboo forest alongside the simeng river of quingshen county, the bentu used three clustered branches to create the foundations of the nests which tower 3.5 meters from the ground. the branches are then split to create multiple threads which are woven together create the spherical shape of the nests.
the nests are pliable but strong, their free-standing structure granting a soft swinging motion in the wind, complimenting an organic form that almost conceals the fact they are manmade. to create them bentu sourced a bamboo weaving craftsman – liu qianxing, who began weaving when he was just seven-years-old. liu is one of the few remaining masters who at the age of 70, still learns from books and teaches classes in a bid to preserve the traditional art and technique.
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