The Dalang School of Life - INTI - International New Town Institute

The Dalang School of Life

Dalang Fever 3 consisted of research, an exhibition at the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture and a workshop. A multidisciplinary science and design team from both the Netherlands and China came together during a four-day online workshop in June 2020 to review the research method, analyse the collected data and propose improvements for Dalang. The goal was to find out how to incorporate people’s needs into the continuous transformation of the area. What spatial, organisational and digital transitions should then be instigated?

The Chinese and Dutch participants looked at the main concerns raised by migrant workers themselves and understood that they generally struggle to find a sense of belonging, find it hard to adapt to urban life and workplace pressures, struggle to survive financially and cannot accumulate a track record of their achievements, while the dynamics of the city call for agility – both personally and professionally – to secure a future. Simultaneously, urban villages have always operated as arrival cities and incubators to empower citizens. The Dutch participants wondered if it would be possible to also “instigate” a sense of belonging in these migrant neighbourhoods. A sense of belonging that is more broadly defined than by merely having a property and/or a local hukou.

The Dalang School of Life is intended to be an informal on- and offline community-driven learning network in the urban villages that empowers people through skill sharing and knowledge exchange. The urban village is the campus of the Dalang School of Life and its inhabitants are the students, teachers and agents. It is supposed to be an add-on to all other formal systems of empowerment – including local NGOs – that are supported by the government, since the Dalang School of Life is created and shaped by migrant workers themselves.

The Dalang School of Life is the result of a Sino-Dutch workshop that took place 15-18 June 2020. The Creative Industries Fund supported the workshop. Film: Marit Geluk.