The paintings in “The Naxi Lifeworld: Native Painters in Northwestern Yunnan” by Zhang Yunling (b. 1955) and Zhang Chunting (b. 1958) proffer a simple and honest way of life, steeped in the seasons, nostalgia, and the pictographic Dongba script of the Naxi people of China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. While the two have attempted to retain something of their traditional practices as part of cultural pride, they are also in the bind that contemporary inheritors of folk painting find themselves: the easy slide from authenticity to contested tradition.

The Naxi are an ethnic minority who number in the few hundreds of thousands. Agriculture has been their main occupation, as it was for Chunting who worked as a farmer after graduating from junior high school.

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