Andre falls in love with the ethnic culture of Yunnan

The sun always rises late than usual in winter on the plateau. At the dawn of the day, the water in the big pot in the corner of the yard was rumbling, and clouds of steam flew high into the air. "Oink! Oink!", the sound came from a great distance.

People in Keyi Village, Mile City, Yunnan Province were preparing a pig-slaughter feast. In the crowd, a tall foreigner with blond hair and brown eyes was particularly eye-catching. Wearing a pink plaid apron, he worked hard with the villagers to press the pig's leg, and also helped to shave the pig.

He is Andre Jacques du Plessis from South Africa, a son-in-law of Yunnan, and also a short video blogger. 

A short video of Andre wearing Wa costumes and singing folk songs while playing three strings became popular on the Internet some time ago. Many netizens commented, "This foreigner speaks Yunnan dialect well." "After watching the video, it seems that I am a fake Wa nationality." "The first foreigner who can sing folk songs." "He is the national son-in-law."

At the age of 18, he yearned for China and later became the son-in-law of Yunnan

No one could imagine that this lively and cheerful video blogger is an international certified public accountant and was the chief financial officer of FirstRand Group, one of the largest financial groups in Africa.

"I began to learn the Confucius and Mencius thoughts and the Book of Changes at the age of 18, and I wanted to go to China." When Andre was young, he wanted to come to China, but his parents thought this idea was unrealistic, and urged him to go to college first.

Time went by quietly. Andre finished his studies and started working. Everything around him was changing, but his yearning for China remained the same. In 2014, at the age of 37, he decided to come to China and study Chinese in Beijing from scratch.

"Writing Chinese characters is like painting, and each stroke is meticulous." Andre explained, "there is a big difference between Chinese and English. There are only 26 letters in English, but every stroke of Chinese is like painting." Although Andre can speak fluent Chinese now, he still has some difficulties in writing. He can only simply write his own Chinese name.

"I have been to more than 40 countries, and the cultures of different countries are different." Andre believes that studying more cultures can help him understand various customs. In the past nine years in China, he has traveled all over the country. When he came to Yunnan, the colorful ethnic minority culture and natural scenery deeply impressed him.

Andre and his wife wore ethnic costumes. Photo provided

In January 2018, Andre came to Kunming Xiongda Tea Wholesale Market to learn tea culture with friends. shourly after that, he went to Dali, Lijiang and other places. He was surprised by the distinctive costumes of local minorities, and was also shocked by the music of various minorities. Knowing that there are 25 ethnic minorities in Yunnan, he decided to travel all over Yunnan to explore the cultural background behind the ethnic minorities.

Later, he met a beautiful woman in Kunming and unlocked a new identity - a son-in-law of Yunnan.

Andre and his wife wearing Wa costumes went to the Wa village. Photo provided

"We met at work. It could be said that we fell in love at second sight." Andre said with a smile. He and his wife would travel together. When they went to the "Fanrenguzhai" in Ninglang County, they wore Pumi costumes.

Andre and his wife dressed in Pumi costumes and enjoyed dinner with the local people. Photo provided 

In 2021, Andre quit his job and devoted himself to the study and research of Yunnan's history and culture. He founded a new media company with three friends and established an IP of "Adu, the son-in-law of Yunnan". As his official account profile said, "I love Yunnan, I love China, and share the beauty, nice things, and national culture of Yunnan."

Andre took a group photo with three partners. Photo provided 

Wearing costumes of ethnic minorities and singing folk songs to make culture come alive

"Each ethnic minority's clothing has its own characteristics, such as the Wa's clothing is mainly black and red, and the Yi's embroidery is very beautiful..." Speaking of the characteristics of each ethnic minority's clothing, Andre looked like a master.

He likes to study the characteristics of the costumes of various ethnic minorities, including the colors, stitches and cultural connotations of the clothes, and goes to all parts of Yunnan to deeply experience different folk cultures when he is free. In fact, he has already bought the costumes of Wa, Yi, Pumi, Tibetan, Naxi, Dai and so on.

Andre dressed in Tibetan clothes. Photo provided

In his view, clothing is the carrier of culture. Wearing ethnic minority clothing is a way to make culture "come alive". "What I bought is pretty simple. Some ethnic minority costumes are very expensive and I can't afford it." He joked, "because they are priceless and art works."

"I have always believed that 'what is national is the world'." In addition to ethnic minority costumes, Andre also has a special interest in Yunnan folk songs. For him, Yunnan folk songs represent the most simple and direct expression of emotion, and become more historical through generation after generation.

In Mengzi, Andre and his friends took a group photo under the century-old pomegranate tree. Photo provided

The majority of Andre's playlist is ethnic minority songs, and he has a categorised "ethnic minorities" folder with 344 songs; In the folder of "ethnic minority learning (can sing)", there are 48 songs that Yunnan people are most familiar with.

The annotation made by Andre when learned the "Naxi Trilogy".

As he learned each song, he took notes carefully, not only singing along, but also understanding its meaning. For example, the Naxi Trilogy is divided into three chapters: the song of hitting and dancing, the song of happiness and the song of toasting. In his notes, Andre used his own way to mark the pronunciation. 

"Andre always takes things seriously." Yang Qin is a partner and nephew of Andre. From the beginning of their operation and maintenance of "We media", they have been discussing topic, shooting and editing together at any time. "Sometimes the video is only 10 seconds, but it may actually take a day to shoot." According to Yang Qin, on the day of shooting the Dian Opera, they were busy from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., during which they repeated shooting many times, but Andre never said a word of tiredness. After work, he did not forget to buy his wife a bunch of flowers. "He is also a romantic man."

Andre studied Dian Opera. Photo provided

"I study ethnic minority cultures, and they are young and always have nice ideas about how to make video." With the aim of promoting Yunnan's ethnic culture to more people through short videos, Andre worked with Yang Qin and three other young people to think about different forms of expression. They have tried intangible cultural heritage series, cross-dressing series, etc. As the Spring Festival is approaching, they also keep up with the hot spots and release some videos such as pig-slaughter feast.

Andre and his friends at dinner. Photo provided

Pressing the pig's leg and enjoying the feast, Andre seemed a native Yunnan people.

As the saying goes, "When the pig grunts, Spring Festival is coming." In the last month of the lunar calendar, many rural families began to prepare the pig-slaughter feast. Andre also wanted to enjoy the feast, and he wanted to press the pig's leg.

"If you want to kill a pig, call me. I will help you press the pig's leg and cook the fire." Andre sang the Yunnan folk song in the short video platform. Soon, a private letter was received from the backstage. The official account of Taiping Lake invited them to eat pig feast in Keyi Town.

Arriving at Keyi Town, Andre met Mr. Wang. "I saw a tall foreigner among crowds, and I recognized him at a glance, so I went to greet him." Mr. Wang has been following him for a long time. Although it was the first time they met, they talked very happily, and made an appointment to enjoy the pig feast next day.

At five o'clock in the morning, Andre put on a floral apron and stepped on a pair of water shoes and set off with the villagers. "Before dawn, a man wore a flashlight on his head, and I followed him to the pigsty to drag the pig." Six people worked together to put the pig, which was more than 200 kilograms, on a generous table. After a series of operations, such as blinding the pig's eyes, pressing the pig's body, scalding the pig's hair and dividing the pork, everyone began to prepare lunch. Andre also joined them.

At noon, everyone moved out tables in the yard. The chef was busy in the kitchen all the time. Andre also took the spatula to fry the dishes from time to time. After steaming, frying, and stewing, the fresh pork became braised pork belly, stir fried pork, and stir fried pork liver... All the dishes were served. Andre sat around the table and ate happily with others. "It's delicious. I have had three pig meals before. I can say that this one tastes best!"

In the short video, Andre summed up the process of pig feast with his own understanding: encircling, driving, wrestling, showering, bathing, cutting, preparing dishes, cooking, weathering, and eating. "Pig feast is not only a delicacy, but also  a reflection of the passion of Yunnan people." By participating in the busy and authentic Yunnan pig feast, Andre was deeply impressed by the villagers' hospitality, understood the significance of the New Year and felt the happiness of reunion.

"Andre is an awesome dude and he likes our Yunnan." Mr. Wang hopes that Andre to go popular on the Internet so that more people see the local characteristics of Yunnan. " The Axi Jihuo festival, a fire-worshipping festival will be held on the third day of the second month of the Chinese lunar calendar, I will invite Andre to sing and dance together!" he added.

This year's Spring Festival, Andre and his partners will complete the "Chinese Year, Yunnan Flavor" activity, from the first day to the seventh day of the year, Andre will go to Dali, Lijiang, Lincang, Chuxiong and other places to experience the customs of ethnic minorities and feel the unique flavor of the year,

After packing his bags and getting into the driver's seat, Andre headed west to Dali, the first stop. "In previous years, I had reunion dinner with my family and watched the Spring Festival Gala. This year, it will be different with my Bai friends." His words was full of anticipation.

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(Editors: Rachel, Christine)

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