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Craftswoman in China’s Xinjiang inherits leather carving with local features

Drawing inspirations from local culture of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a craftswoman Meng Lulu has devoted herself to inheriting leather carving in recent years, producing a wide range of works and injecting vitality into a craft that has almost been lost.

Leather carving by Meng Lulu (Photo provided by the interviewee)

Meng, a native of Xinjiang born in the 1980s, likened the making of leather carving works to a kind of ballet of the fingertips. She explained that the process for making these works included many steps such as caving, overlocking, and polishing, and needed up to 100 different kinds of tools. So far, she has made many items, such as cases for Xinjiang’s traditional musical instruments, key cases, pendants and paintings since she started carving nine years ago.

The designs of her works mostly come from local cultural elements, such as the unique patterns of ethnic groups, plants and animals in Xinjiang. Encouraged by her teacher Li Siqin, an intangible cultural heritage inheritor of leather carving from north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, she has travelled the length and breadth of Xinjiang to visit leather carving artists, learn carving techniques and drawing on their inspiration.

Leather carving by Meng Lulu (Photo provided by the interviewee)

Meng expended the most of her energies on a work called “mother.” It is a figure-painting carved on a piece of red cattle hide, and tells the story of young girls of the Tajik ethnic group learning embroidery from their mothers, and passing down the art to their offspring. The work won an award in a national trade fair for handiworks in 2020.

Apart from making her own works, she has also held training sessions across the region, so far training over 100 farmers and herdsmen.