Across China: Villager in wheelchair paints her way out of poverty

With the help of her son, Lu Fengzhu headed toward Wutong township, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, in her wheelchair to attend painting class.

The 51-year-old is disabled due to infantile paralysis. She was unable to work because her hands and feet were atrophied due to the illness.

“When I was a child, I used to dream of going to school, but I never got the chance because of poverty,” said Lu.

Poverty made Lu reluctant to spend money on a wheelchair. In the past, she could only move around slowly with the help of a small wooden stool.

However, she now has the opportunity to go to town on her own after the local disabled persons’ federation donated an electric wheelchair to her.

In 2016, Lu’s family was registered as a poverty-stricken family, but the local farmer painting industry has helped the family out of poverty.

In Wutong township, about 5 km from Lu’s village, the tradition of farmer painting dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

“The output value of the farmer painting industry in our town reached around 200 million yuan (about 28 million U.S. dollars) last year,” said Shi Yu, the town’s Party secretary.

Shi added that there are thousands of farmer painters in Wutong and more than 30 poor families are now engaged in the business.

Since this April, Lu has been attending classes in Wutong. Now, Lu’s paintings can sell for about 20 yuan each.

“These paintings are created by farmers who only paint during the slack season to increase their incomes,” said Li Wenbo, Lu’s painting teacher, who now owns two painting studios in the town.

“In ancient times, farmers painted door gods and god of wealth, and then sceneries and flowers gradually became the main themes of their paintings,” Li said.

As the town is not far from the scenic city of Guilin, the farmers in Wutong now sell more and more paintings to tourists thanks to the region’s booming tourism industry.

“With the painting income, I believe my family will not fall into poverty again,” she said.

And the good news is, her daughter will soon become a college student, which keeps Lu motivated to be a better painter.