Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Austronesian culture makes a great city – Interview with April Yao, Magistrate of Taitung

SINGAPORE, Oct. 3, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Taitung, located in the southeast of Taiwan, is a city that benefits from both mountains and oceans. With a 176 km coastline, it has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Travelers Review Award for Most Hospitable Destination and City by Booking.com. Taitung attracts numerous tourists with its international hot air balloon carnival, international surfing competition, and star gazing activities. Despite the pandemic, Taitung continues to grow stronger as a city. In recent years, the Taitung County Government has proposed building the Capital of Austronesian Culture, aiming to collaborate on art and culture locally and internationally. The goal is to create a platform for cultural exchange and lead global conversations. Art Ripples Project Office had the honor of interviewing the Magistrate of Taitung County, April Yao, to gain insight into this great city through her eyes and mind.

April Yao, Magistrate of Taitung County(Taitung County Government)
April Yao, Magistrate of Taitung County(Taitung County Government)

Q1. Greeting. Taitung has been well rewarded and recognized by global travelers for its Slow Economy strategy. The recent proposal to build an Austronesian Capital to promote Taitung’s unique cultural strength, could you please give us an introduction of the recent transformation in Taiwan regarding this focus?

Taitung is developing its economy through a natural and sustainable approach known as the Slow Economy strategy. Here in Taitung, we embrace Slow Products that are crafted between the mountains and the sea. We cultivate a community of Slow Preferers who appreciate the unhurried pace of Taitung’s lifestyle. By adopting a positive and sustainable production cycle, we protect and preserve Taiwan’s land while creating value for our community. Our efforts have been recognized with the Travelers Review Award for Most Hospitable Destination and City Awards by Booking.com. Taitung has captivated global travelers with its charm, making it an ideal travel destination. As our slogan goes, “one hundredth time for the ten thousand travelers.” However, what truly sets Taitung apart from other cities is our rich Austronesian culture.

There have been studies that indicate Taiwan as the origin of Austronesian languages. Over time, rich culture, languages, art, and craft spread through the sea to various locations such as New Zealand in the south, Madagascar in the west, and Easter Island in the east. This has led to the emergence of similarities in language and culture throughout the Pacific archipelagos. As a significant city on the Pacific front, Taitung is connected with Pacific islands through multiple tribes, resources, crafts, legends, and myths. As a natural outcome, we often interact with each other on these aspects. Therefore, Taitung has embraced its role as the Capital of Austronesian Culture to charm and arm our city with not only the slow exotic pace of lifestyle but also the rich cultural beauty it possesses.

Q2. We’ve discovered great Austronesian culture energy is brewing and fermenting. Could you please tell us more about the connections between Austronesian culture and Taitung’s art and crafting?

We have observed that almost all themes, materials used, and crafting skills are related to Austronesian culture. Taitung Dawn Artist Village has graced us with its creativity and elegant craftsmanship, producing artworks made from local jade, opal, white chalcedony, blue chalcedony, and more. These artworks not only serve as proof that our unique jade and gem have traveled through the Oceanian Jade Route to Indonesia, the Philippines, and Borneo but also express individual and cultural experiences through the artists’ work. The shell designs on wooden cutlery by Orange Moon Studio also feature excellent nautical culture.

We see a lot of myologic graphics, such as Argyle check, appearing in the creations of Adisi Pottery, a Paiwan tribe artist studio, and the works of Chou Sheng-Hsien, another artist. These artists skillfully incorporate traditional patterns into their contemporary pieces.

Moreover, we observe the use of natural materials like vine and ramie by artists such as Sayfike, Highway 11 Open Studio, ili Workshop, and Abus Bunun Traditional Weaving Workshop. These materials have been used by islanders throughout history to make ropes, baskets, and other daily essentials. By utilizing these materials, these artists create their fantastic artworks.

Pottery, an essential element of all ancient culture, will be showcased by Taitung local artist Hsueg Chia-Chi using local clay and an ancient pit fired technique during the exhibition. Muhammad Aimanuddin has also created art through pottery making expressing his nostalgia towards his hometown.

One you cannot miss is the fascinating conversation built between artworks using same resources to create but created by three artists: Taitung artist Lin Jung-Yi, Malaysian artist, Wendy Teo, and Tongo&New Zealand artist Uhila Nai. An indeed interesting dialogue threaded in tree bark craftsmanship and modern art and creativity that you simple cannot miss.

Q3. Miss Magistrate, may I ask why you chose to lead the Taitung Art and Craft to participate in FIND, Design Fair Asia this year?

Taitung County Government has been leading Taitung Arts and Crafts to various exhibitions for many years. We have participated in public events related to the Cultural Creativity Industry in Xiamen, Beijing, Thailand, and Vietnam, and have been well rewarded. FIND, Design Fair Asia, known as the Asian version of Salone del Mobile Milano, is a cross-continental exhibition. Singapore, the Lion City, is a key city in the South East Pacific Alliance economically and trade-wise. It is also a melting pot of diverse cultures and races from Austronesian countries. On the other side of the bay, Taitung is a city filled with rich Austronesian culture. It is home to multiple tribes with unique languages, arts, religions, traditional knowledge, diets, and costumes. Taitung is witnessing a surge in creativity and craftsmanship achievements as it embraces the co-creation trend. The potential of traditional cultural elements transformed into home decor designs is evident, especially in the co-created commercialized products made by ili Workshop x HEY SHENG, JIAO x YSTUDIO, and the fabulous fur ball arts created by Mima’an. This is why we are delighted to participate in FIND, Design Fair Asia—an international platform for designers. Austronesian Art Ripples is not just a theme; it represents the beginning of a collective conversation between Austronesian culture and the world.

Q4. Through your eyes, we see the charming Taitung, a natural beauty with an undisturbed environment shaped by culture, art, and craftsmanship. Last but not least, could you recommend us what are some must-see attractions or events during Art Ripples’ participation in FIND, Design Fair Asia this year?

Taitung County Government is leading Taitung artists in joining FIND, Design Fair Asia 2023. The theme of the exhibition is Austronesian Art Ripples, which will showcase a variety of artworks from five local representative brands, four co-creation artworks, and six international collaborations. This exhibition is a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary art and design.

During the exhibition period, there will be live performances at 11:00 am and 2:30 pm. Sufin Paylang, the lead singer of the well-known band MAFANA, will be performing live. Sufin is known for his heavenly vocals and singing skills. You will experience a unique Austronesian culture through his soul-touching singing.

Join us in this exhibition to enjoy Taitung’s culture, arts, and craftsmanship. Let us welcome you to Taitung, home to Austronesian Heritage through this exhibition. We hope you can visit us in person in the future to experience the charm of slow living and Austronesian culture.

An online exhibition hall, themed Austronesian Art Ripples, will be streaming live alongside the actual exhibition as part of our participation in FIND, Design Fair Asia from September 21st to November 12th. We would greatly appreciate your visit and support.

Exhibition information:

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