Canvas of Belonging: Art as a Voice for Rural-urban Migrant Children in Guangzhou’s Urban Villages

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationResearch


This research explores the role of participatory artistic practices in shaping the sense of belonging and place attachment among rural-urban migrant children in the urban villages of Guangzhou. Amidst the city's rapid urbanisation, these urban villages emerge as unique socio-spatial configurations where uprooted rural lives and burgeoning urbanity collide, and migrant children find themselves at the crossroads of past and present.

The study focuses on a group of 30 children aged 7-12, each participating in a series of three art-based activities designed to elicit their expressions and connections to their environment. The creative outputs—map-paintings, collages, and architectural three-dimensional models—act as windows into the children's inner worlds, revealing complex narratives of home, community, and identity.

Employing a qualitative approach, the project dovetails artistic creation with semi-structured interviews, fostering a rich, child-led dialogue. The process not only empowers the children to articulate their nuanced experiences of urban village life but also facilitates the examination of how they navigate and internalise the changes in their habitats.

Initial findings indicate that participatory art-making enables the children to explore and express their place-based narratives creatively. The artworks produced become powerful tools for engaging with their perceptions of urban living, highlighting the intersections of memory, reality, and aspiration. This engagement offers fresh insights into the impact of spatial dynamics on migrant children's development and the critical role they play in their communities.

Through this presentation, the research enriches the understanding of rural-urban migrant children's experiences and emphasises the importance of incorporating children's perspectives into the future urban planning narrative. It calls for a more inclusive approach to city-making that includes children’s imaginative and emotional connections, fostering urban environments that resonate with the experiences and aspirations of their youngest inhabitants.
Period22 May 2024
Event titleSchool of Environment, Education and Development (SEED) PGR Conference 2024: Emerging Trends and Innovations Across All Scientific Disciplines
Event typeConference
LocationManchester, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal