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Hualien Elders Assemble Local Memories Into Art

Taipei, Taiwan:

Hualien County Nou-Li InterCommunity Association (花蓮縣牛犁社區交流協會), an organization that has been subsidized by the Ministry of Culture’s Taiwan Cultural Memory Bank project, tell life stories of community elders and reconstructs rural culture as well as knowledge in Hualien through applique painting.


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Hualien Elders Assemble Local Memories into Art (Photo: Business Wire)

Hualien Elders Assemble Local Memories into Art (Photo: Business Wire)

Twenty years ago, the association started pushing for community empowerment in Fengtian, a community that was established as an immigrant village by the Japanese colonial government. At that time, immigrants including those of Hakka, Minnan, indigenous, and Han Chinese ethnicity, moved to the village consecutively.


As an agricultural village, today’s Fengtian community faces issues of fallow, aging population, outflow of manpower, single-parent family, skipped-generation family, and urbanization.


With the support of the Taiwan Cultural Memory Bank project, the association has engaged in revitalizing local culture and history to pass on the valuable cultural memories and stories. Over the past years, the association taught the community elders to make collages and paintings about their life stories and memories of the village with fabric cut from unused clothes.


The association also helped exhibit these applique paintings in Taiwan and brought them to participate in the exhibition held in Japan. The applique paintings have deeply moved the Japanese panel, for they may not look the most exquisite, the stories behind make them the true artworks.


Through the cultural memory reconstruction activity, the association has discovered many local stories. For example, when an elderly lady shared a photo of a big dog she kept 40 years old, they found out that the dog was actually a Formosan black bear after spotting the V-shaped white mark on its chest.


The story sparked discussions online, and led people to re-examine the story behind – environmental damage caused by human activities forced the animal to leave its habitat, and therefore caught by humans.


The association’s efforts have achieved a fruitful outcome. Today, a community for environmental education has taken shape in Fengtian. Integrating the elders’ memories and life experiences with young people’s participation and creativity, the community has built a strong base for the development of cultural sustainability.