'Drifting on a small boat'


Chinese artist Ai Weiwei sits in the courtyard of his home in Beijing on November 7, 2010.


Peter Parks

Missing artist and government critic Ai Weiwei was deeply affected by his family’s exile when his own father was persecuted by the Communist Party of China decades ago, a newly published letter reveals.

Ai’s sister gave a copy of a 1978 letter from the artist to The Australian newspaper this week, in which he describes isolation and feelings of helplessness when his father, the famed poet Ai Qing, was exiled with his family to remote corners of China. Ai, perhaps China’s most internationally famous artist, has been missing since April 3, when he was captured at the Beijing airport while attempting to board a flight to Hong Kong. His family still has had no word on his whereabouts. China says it is investigating him for unspecified “economic crimes.”

Of his childhood in exile, Ai wrote to his brother 32 years ago: "We drifted on a small boat for 20 years. If I say the past time left me with some memorable things, it has no mystical and magnificent sky, no beautiful and moving fairy tales, no endless warmth of home, no colorful flower, no graceful music."