Jo Farrell 2014 c Calvin Sit Time Out HK
Join award-winning photographer and cultural anthropologist Jo Farrell for a discussion about her project Living History which celebrates the lives of some of the last remaining women with bound feet in China. Farrell will be in conversation with Pamela Kember, Head of Arts and Learning at Asia House.
Foot binding (also known as ‘lotus feet’) was the Chinese custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. A tradition started in the Song Dynasty, it was originally banned in 1911 however continued in rural areas until around 1949 when the women were forced to remove the bindings by governmental decree. Foot binding was widely thought to be a means for wealthy families to display status and it became a mark of beauty. Despite being considered barbaric, it was a tradition that enabled women to find a suitable partner. It allowed the women a better future.
Living History has been Farrell’s ongoing project for the last nine years and during this time Farrell met more than 50 of these women with bound feet in China. Farrell photographed the women and their feet as she met them, choosing to document the series with black and white film.
Despite being a tradition historically associated with the wealthy, Farrell found that foot binding transcended different classes. All of the women she met were peasant farmers working off the land in rural areas away from the main cities, and they continue to work in their 80s and 90s.
During her talk at Asia House, Farrell will discuss the women she met and photographed and how foot binding has impacted their lives throughout the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution.