(by Ruwanthi ABEYAKOON) — Her keen eyes follow every face around her. her heart knows that it takes only a fraction of a second for an expression to change. When the right moment dawns, she captures the thought scattered on a face that words cannot express.
Instilling life and preserving it for eternity on a photograph is more than a profession for Yongqiu Liu, who will hold her maiden photographic exhibition on October 2 at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. the exhibition will remain open for the public until the 4th of Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa will be the chief Guest while the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ms. Yang Xiuping will grace the occasion as the guest of honour.
Five years ago, Liu arrived in Sri Lanka for a short vacation. As it was the winter season in Northern China, all Liu had in mind was escaping the gust of cold winds. She thought spending some time with her husband who was employed in a warm island would be the best option. Visiting Sri Lanka for the first time, Liu never thought the warmth of the country and its people would touch her heart so strong preventing her to leave for China.
“I never thought that I would spend so many years of my life in Sri Lanka when I stepped in to the “bright and fertile island” five years ago. On the 25th of January, 2005 I arrived in Sri Lanka. It was my first visit to the South Asian island. Holding my son’s little hand and the envelope containing two return air tickets to Beijing, I came to visit my husband Zhanjie Chen who was the chief correspondent Colombo Office, Xinhau News Agency, She recalled.She reminisced the devastating moment the island nation was going through when she arrived.
A massive tsunami has hit the pearl of the Indian Ocean washing away thousands of lives with its unruly waters and leaving many more homeless. “People were still in deep sorrow because of the tsunami which occurred just one month before my arrival. The Colombo office of Xinhua News Agency was extremely busy with tsunami reporting,” Liu said. The situation in the country was devastating. During such a time, anyone wold think of fleeing to a safer place instead Liu says she decided to stay.
“But it doesn’t matter for us. We fell in love with Sri Lanka immediately, especially my seven-year-old son. He was born in Beijing which is a forest of concrete. Suddenly, he was free to run barefoot on the sandy beaches and feel the breeze in his face. He was free to watch the squirrels, monitors, butterflies and many other lovely creatures. So we decided to settle here with his father,” she explained.
“For me, it was a new beginning. I had to abandon my job in Beijing as an editor, and learn everything in the new environment – driving, English and then photography. In March 2008, I joined Xinhau as a correspondent,” Liu said.Since then, the charms of Sri Lanka has wrapped Liu and kept her rooted in this soil. The friendly smiles, the breathtaking nature and the richness on the culture embraced her.
“I was deeply indulged in the rich culture and history, the fascinating gifts of nature and the friendly people of the country,” she said.
Liu wanted the world to know about this island which amazed her and changed her plans in life.
“I began to write a lot of stories about Sri Lanka which were either published in Chinese magazines and newspapers, or posted on my blog. One of my fiends once said to me that she is discovering Sri Lanka through my articles,” Liu said.
Meanwhile, she captured the sense of the mystery and the beauty of life, nature, and special moments on her camera. A smile of a girl, an inquisitive pair of eyes, a dancer full of energy, tranquillity of a temple or a fleeting moment in the nature was permanently recorded on her camera, the way she saw it.
“I shot pictures at different occasions as much as possible. Every moment that urged me to capture a picture whether it is an expression on some person’s face, an image in a certain occasion, or a cloud flying across the sky or a monkey staring at me, always touched my heart deeply. These are not just photographs for me but are the most meaningful memories in my life,” she said.
Liu also experienced another devastation that was battering Sri Lanka. It was the last phase of the three decade long conflict which stole away many precious lives of Sri Lankans.
Even though uncertainty clouded every nook and corner of the country, Liu did not entertain any thoughts of leaving the island. The cruelty of war, the suffering of the innocent and the destruction were recorded both on her camera and on her heart.
“The experience of the last phase of the war that pained Sri Lanka for nearly 30 years is unforgettable. I was shocked. I cried when innocent civilians were killed in such a nice country. I always kept asking “why”.
I remember how I threw up after returning from the scene where a LTTE suicide bomber blew himself up, targeting the Secretary of Defence,” she explained.
During her five year stay she had gone through many experiences and witnessed the special moments of Sri Lanka. She feels five years is too short for her to explore and understand this country and its people.
“My husband and I will leave the country for Greece to start the next period of work. We have to say goodbye to Sri Lanka in November,” she said. Before her departure from this island of wonders she hopes to pay tribute to the memorable experience through her photographic exhibition. “My love for this country will remain forever,” she concluded. Liu invites all Sri Lankans to share and witness her years of joy in this beautiful island.