Born and bred yu’i Kòrsou living in the Netherlands since 2000, Francis Sling (33) was recently commissioned to paint a mural for the International Youth Hostel Mandala in Xining, a small but up-and-coming tourist destination in China’s northwest Qinghai Province. The story is as magical as the end-product: one of Francis’ Facebook fans happened to share a photo of Francis’ work on his wall, the client saw it, loved it and reached out to Francis. “Isn’t it beautiful when art connects us?” said Francis (you can just ‘hear’ the smile on his face) in an interview with Maarten Schakel on Dolfijn FM radio.
Francis runs his own graphic design shop, Jayart Masters, since 2005. His clients include several awesome yu’i Kòrsou, including Randy Leroy, Cache Royale, Dreams, Brian Dekkers. A true Artist with a capital A, “Art is where I can be myself. How art ‘should’ look and whether it’s accepted by others is of less importance to me,” says Francis.
His brilliant 2010-2011 exhibit ‘I am a Piece of Art’ places live humans in murals, much like Marina Abramovic ‘The Artist is Present’. A true yu’i Korsou with a very clear sense for ‘dushi bida’, Francis’ humans serve a 3D purpose and appear straight out of Cirque Du Soleil. This new art form – not quite photography, installation, or performance, but a combination of the three with human eyes – is a bit like the Carnival Francis grew up in. He compels revelers to get closer [is that *really* what we’re seeing?!]… and most come away with an exhilarating childlike sense of Magic, the kind you get at a circus or Moulin Rouge. Is the here-and-now reality magical?! Well, it certainly should be, if you ask Francis.
No boundaries to Francis’ imagination, he was the perfect pick when Xining’s Youth Hostel had to evoke a ‘space without borders’ to inspire community among its dwellers – who are more often than not strangers to each other. Instead of conforming to Chinese cultural norms, Francis decided to draw inspiration from his beloved rock: Curaçao, “In the afternoon and evening we gather under a shaded tree [typically, a tamarind or mesquite (indju) tree] we share funny stories and laugh… the ‘bo’i palu’ setting brings me closer to friends and family,” says Francis.
Francis’ magical indoor bo’i palu experience is sure to start conversations and connect young hostel dwellers from all walks of life and cultures. Far-reaching branches transport all the colors of the rainbow, a t-shirt and a pair of socks dry on a clothesline evoking intimacy, year-round Christmas lights turn dwellers into ‘gifts’ for each other to unwrap (proverbially, of course), an empty swing hangs from the tree and invites turns and photographs (#boipaluchina on Instagram?).
Oooohhh can you spot the love birds way up high?!
Francis even goes above and beyond by adding actual protruding branches, so as to extend his magical tree beyond the confines of the ceiling and into Xining’s sky… perhaps encouraging dreams about the distant and not-so-distant future?
It goes without saying that Francis is extremely proud to have been able to introduce China to this awesome Curaçao experience. And who knows? Next year Xining’s youth hostel dwellers might want to experience the real bo’i palu deal in Curaçao!
ALL PHOTOS BY FRANCIS SLING.