Blackboard Paintings Become Hit for Nanjing University Cleaner

Nanjing University cleaner painter

A cleaner working for 7 years in Nanjing University Xianlin Campus has suddenly become a celebrity, on account of her watercolour-style paintings on blackboards in the students’ dormitory.

Wu Lidi’s passion for painting motivates her to create different artworks to welcome students to the university every semester. “I just love it so much”, she told The Nanjinger. “When I paint, I forget where I am for hours and have a clear focus on my work. I even forget to eat and drink!”

The first piece of peony flowers artwork perhaps explains Wu’s motivation for painting. The simple chalk pictogram amazed all students and staff,  coming about after the dormitory manager asked students to write notes on a blackboard. Not happy with just plain words, he so looked for more substance. Wu found out they needed someone who can paint, so she gathered up the courage to recommend herself. All these years later, she is the talk of the town.

​Wu was then assigned as a painter in the dorm to paint by way of welcome and farewell to students on the blackboards oo the ground floor. Never having learned the craft professionally; she could not afford to attend an art school when she was young, her passion, that began as a child when she first started to paint stick figures, has never stopped her from learning by herself, watching videos and practicing at home all the time. “I like painting European landscapes; I find Chinese paintings are really difficult”, she said.

Perhaps it is her cute swagger, her ear-to-ear grin and her modesty that endear Wu to students and faculty alike. As a daily cleaner, Wu Lidi needs to manage 4,000 square metres of dorm floor space, though the painting is occupying more and more of her time. Colleagues have taken over some of her work, so as to spare more time for Wu’s painting. On top of that, students took photos of all her paintings and printed them out on postcards, accompanied by sweet captions on the reverse, showing their appreciation of Wu’s art work. “I felt it is really worth it when I received the cards”, said Wu.

Such support of her work has not been limited to colleagues and students. Wu is married and has a 22-year-old son; her husband never complains her coming late from work, respecting that for which she is keen. “I tried teaching my son how to paint, he was keen at one point but has since given up”, Wu lamented.

Wu has to date painted over 60 paintings in the university’s dorms and is now assigned a theme for each month, whereby the old ones get wiped off and new ones are painted over. “This one represents the new year”, she told The Nanjinger pointing at a painting with fireworks exploding over a blue river. The overall effect helps to create a quiet, thoughtful, peaceful atmosphere on campus.

When the media recently found out, they were hooked too. The endless requests for interview break Wu’s normal schedule, however, her rising to fame overnight has not changed her attitude towards painting one little bit. 

“I have never thought about being famous before. I am just happy with what I am doing for the students right now.”

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Kristen Wang
A Nanjing local, Kristen studied Media and Public relations in Newcastle University (UK), has researched social media and online publishing and previously worked for different new media platforms. She is passionate about discovering new stories and helping expats involved in this city. 南京人Kristen毕业于纽卡斯尔大学,媒体与公共关系硕士学位。她的研究专注于社交媒体和网络发行,在不同的新媒体平台工作。她喜欢发现新鲜事,也希望帮助在南京的外国人融入这里的生活。