Urban Sketching: Xitangjia Alley

07:45 am | Sunday

My friend, Tõnis, and I decided on another early morning meet up to sketch around the Xiaonanmen (小南门) area. Tõnis dropped a pin to where we are meeting up, and I walked to Xitangjia Alley (西塘家弄) from my home. Along the way, the streets feel so empty… deserted… feels like a ghost town with pretty much the houses in this neighbourhood has been boarded up. Most of the locals have moved out while there are a very rare few who are still holding out for as long as they can.

Seeing this sight as I walk through the narrow streets, I cannot help wonder – is this really what modernization is all about at the expense of people belonging to communities? Communities that used to be the heart and soul of Shanghai are literally getting obliterated so fast, blocks after blocks all destined to be demolished. Around where I live, there are big blocks of houses that has already been demolished and some like the one in front of our apartment compound’s main gate, is all boarded up in preparation for that.

From where I was sitting

I think I am getting sidetracked… anyways, Tõnis found this abandoned house where there is a spot for us to sketch the rooftops. The narrow stairs leading up to the top are quite tricky to navigate and had to use our phone flashlights because it is all dark inside. While Tõnis decided to sit on the roof, I opted for the “safer” place which is the steep stairs leading up to the pigeons’ abode; it’s the blue door behind me.

Photo by Tõnis
Precariously sitting on the steep stairs while juggling my paint, sketchbook, and water, to make sure I don’t drop anything.
Photo by Tõnis
Photo by Tõnis

Thank you you for stopping by.

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