Youqine Lefèvre

The Land of Promises

In 1994, six Belgian families, including my father, travelled across China to adopt girls. I was born in Hunan Province in 1993 and was adopted at the age of eight months. According to the official documents I have, I stayed with my biological family for a month before they abandoned me in a city called Yueyang. A resident found me and dropped me off at the police station. The authorities handed me over to the orphanage and reportedly searched for my parents for four months. I lived in the orphanage for seven months before I was adopted.

The Land of Promises is about China’s birth control policy, especially its one-child policy (1979–2015) and its many consequences that still have and will continue to have repercussions. At the same time, it’s a personal project; it tells the stories of those parents who went almost to the other end of the world to adopt a child, of the five other girls adopted at the same time as me and of my experience in particular. I have no recollection of what preceded my adoption or of the meeting between the parents and children at the orphanage. My ‘memory’ of this event has been mediated through the stories my father and the other parents have told me, the photographs and videos they made and the official documents. Drawing on these archives (which date to 1994), pictures I took during trips to China in 2017 and 2019, research based on writings of demographers and experts on China’s birth control policy and testimonies of people I met in China, this work is about the discovery of my country of origin and an attempt to understand what led to the abandonment and international and transracial adoption of hundreds of thousands of Chinese girls.

About the Artist

Artist Website

Youqine Lefèvre (b. 1993, CN) is a Belgian artist currently based in Belgium. After getting a Bachelor in Visual Arts at the Graphic Research School (ERG) in Brussels, Belgium, she continued studying photography at the School of Applied Arts (CEPV) in Vevey, Switzerland and she recently graduated with a master’s degree in Visual Arts at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent, Belgium. Her artistic practice focuses on the intimate, childhood, memory, family and its breaks. Her work is situated between documentary and intimate. Her series Far from home allowed her to be selected at the Voies Off 2016 festival (France), to be finalist of the vfg Nachwuchsförderpreis für fotografie 2016 (Switzerland) and Propositions d’artistes 2017 at Contretype (Belgium), and to be the laureate of the PhotoforumPasquArt SELECTION | AUSWAHL 2016 (Switzerland), the Bourse du Talent #70 Portrait 2017 (France) and the Prix Focale – Ville de Nyon 2017 (Switzerland). Her new work The Land of Promises allowed her to win the third prize of the Kassel Dummy Award 2020 (DE) and the first prize of Pitch your photo project at De Donkere Kamer (BE), to be laureate of the Horlait-Dapsens Prize 2020 (KASK / School of Arts) and of one of the Documentary Photography grant of the SOFAM (BE) and to be selected for reGeneration4 at the Musée de l’Elysée (Lausanne, CH), at .tiff 2020 (FOMU, BE) and to be shortlisted for the MACK First Book Award 2021 (UK) and LUMA RENCONTRES DUMMY BOOK AWARD ARLES 2021 (FR).