Erenlai - Women in Asia 亞洲新女性
Women in Asia 亞洲新女性

Women in Asia 亞洲新女性

How do Asian women challenge their continent’s model of development? Sharing stories and analyses about traditional societies and contemporary ways of life.




週四, 07 七月 2011

A review of the play 'Take Care'

Directed by HSU YEN LING
Taipei Blooming production
Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes

‘Take Care’ is the first production of TAIPEI BLOOMING, a theatre group founded by Hsu Yen Ling last year. The show will be performed at Guling Avant Garde Theatre from July 1 to July 10 2011. The main question raised in this new production deals with abandoned and injured animals through the story of a lesbian couple; one is a veterinary surgeon, the other a teacher. Italso raises the question of the complexity of the relationships between human beings, between human beings and animals, and between animals.

Hsu Yen Ling, well known as an extra gifted performer, presents her fifth show as art director: “I tried to find a new way to write a script. Before, I was used to writing it first and then ask my actors to perform it. For this production, we started from improvisation and wrote the script together; talking about the issues we wanted to focus on, and cutting or rewriting some parts.” This collective work is based on the main characters’ lives: the vet, the teacher, the businessmanand the student. She aims to show their relation to their particular jobs and to one another, usingvery ordinary dialogue, classical stage design and everyday life costumes to stick to the reality she wants to portray.

“How can we take care of the other?” This is the underlying question in the story told by Hsu Yen ling. “I wanted to talk about the animal issue too. In the big cities, many abandoned cats and dogs can’t take care of themselves alone. We have to pay attention to them and take care of them.” This issue leads her to think about animal relationships more based on touch. “I also ask the actors to play the animals in order to focus more on the touching; work on the emotion, the movement and gesture. We often pay too much attention to the sight or the talk. But there are other senses we can use to have contact with the other and in Taiwan, few people touch each other; Taiwanese are not used to physical contact.“ For example, when we say "goodbye" in Taiwan, we never kiss the other on the cheek. In this show, the animals talk and could be seen as examples that the main characters could follow in their own life, they even advise their masters when they face difficult situations in everyday life and relationships.

To embody one of the animals, she asks Fa Tsai to join her production: Fa Tsai, a famous talented artist had already played with the most famous art directors in Taiwan and we can assure you that his performance in this show is excellent and very detailed. Hsu Yen ling, in her role as art director, works on every detail with her actors, even with the non-professional ones such as Liu Nien Yun. She used to be Hsu Yen ling’s producer in ‘Sister Trio’ and ‘A date’, two successful shows she presented a few years ago in Taiwan.

“When Yenling asked me to be her actress in ‘Take care’, I could not refuse it: I was reallyinterested in the topic and wanted to support her production. I’ve known her since I was in senior high school, before I began to study women’s working conditions at university: she was the teacher in our theatre club. I also wanted to try to be an actress even though I sometimes feel alittle scared. For me, it is difficult to act a relationship, but I really want to work more on theatre projects, because since I began working for the labor organization* I have not had much time for theatre.” Her role is to be the vet and take care of the injured animals and the people who bringthem to her office.

“When Yen Ling told me the story she wanted to write, I found a connection between my actual job and the character of the veterinary. In my job, I have to take care ofinjured laborers – women who used to work for RCA (Radio Corporation of America), an American electric company sold to Thompson, more than 20 years ago and who later got cancer.They have been fighting for 10 years to get compensation. Many questions come to my mindwhen I am tired: why do I want to be an organizer? My character has the same questioning andfeeling.” One may have seen Liu Nien Yun on TV, the morning the Legislative Yuan passed thebudget for Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant; she was one the persons thrown out by thethstpolicemen in front the Legislative Yuan. As an activist, she is involved in the anti-nuclear andlabor movements, yet, all the while she is deeply implicated in her work, listening to the harmedpersons and helping them as best she can.

So, if you want to know what lies behind ‘Take Care’, we recommend you have a look at the show, partly presented as a ordinary life comedy we should say.

* Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries, based in Taipei City.
(Photo courtesy of  D. Vandermolina)

週三, 29 六月 2011

化小愛為大愛 ---「法扶志工」柯媽媽的故事


她摯愛的大兒子,今天早上出門前,不是還開心地向她微笑揮手道別嗎?上個星期,這個貼心的孩子 ,不是還興高采烈地跟她分享學校生活的點點滴滴嗎?


週五, 25 二月 2011




週五, 25 二月 2011





Playing the drums of life

Ibau of the Paiwan tribe in Taiwan comes from Tuvasavasai (Qingshan), Pingtung. Field studies from her early research experiences have became important inspirations for her writing.

In 1999, Ibau started studying theatre performance. She practiced drumming, martial arts and meditation at Laoquan Mountain’s U-Theater in Muzha.

週一, 21 二月 2011

Lady Flower of the mountain

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14 years ago, Bethany Peng married a man from Guangfu Township, and thus became a daughter-in-law of the Amis people. This was the moment she fell in love with the honesty and innocence of the community's children and teenagers and took it upon herself to gradually understand their needs.

10 years ago, as a volunteer storyteller, she visited local schools every week recounting tales to the schoolchildren. From this, she eventually establish an association for training people in storytelling - the Wood Pecker Life Association.

In seven years, the association has transformed from having one desk, one old computer and one volunteer, to an association that has an office, a reception and a second-hand charity shop. Having a dream to fulfill is the most wonderful thing in life; if you have intention, nothing can stop you.

After Bethany entered the community, she looked after the local children as they grew up, and as she interacted with them, she was always thinking about what was most important for these children.

To give the disadvantaged youth from this remote mountain area a wider variety of study options, the Wood Pecker Life Association began to form volunteer groups and training classes to teach youngsters to save up their spare time and use the extra time as capital for learning and service to the community. The Hualien and Taitung Teenagers Time Bank was established as a result.

Hopefully more people can join in, looking after the disadvantaged minorities of the Hualien and Taitung regions, bringing them hope, dreams and love…

週五, 15 十月 2010

The master at home

A recent survey conducted by the Research development and Evaluation Commission in Taiwan gave some ‘positive’ results regarding the progress of gender equality in Taiwanese society: for example, approximately 86% of respondents said that men and women should share equal responsibilities at work and at home while 80% “disagreed with the idea that men should be the master at home and women should obey them”.

To what extent are these opinions reflected by reality? Actually, the 2010 figures published by the Service of Accounting and Statistics of the Executive Yuan are not so bad: they show improvement in the decreasing of inequalities between men and women in the work environment in terms of salary difference as an example or even unemployment rate. But in 2009 there were also 1.5 more women working in a part-time job than men and only 17% of the parental leave allowances were taken by men.

So how much real improvement do these figures really show? In a context of economic recession, it doesn’t seem so surprising that the majority of people would think men and women can do the same amount of work. In the West, women only obtained the right to vote after having shown how necessary and efficient they were to keep the society and the economy functioning in the absence of the men (out on the front line). It is often in times of crisis that a society is pushed to find solutions and adapt. But shouldn’t we be looking for more preventive solutions than just patchwork?

Furthermore, polls are interesting themselves in the terminology they use. I was actually more surprised by the questions than the results, as the way the questions were asked are quite indicative of how conservative Taiwanese society still is in 2010:

In regards to traditional perception of social roles, 80% of the people surveyed disagreed with the “men should be the leader in the home, and women should try their best to obey their husbands” concept. Moreover, 68% of the interviewees disagreed with the “to carry on the bloodline, one must give birth to a son” tradition, and roughly 60% of them disagreed with the notion of “it is men’s responsibility to bring in income, and women should stay home to take care of the family.” Concerning the idea of “calling both sides of grandparents as ‘grandparents’ in the future,” 50% of the respondents approved while 44% of them disapproved.

Here is the survey in Chinese
The Report on Women and Men in R.O.C. (Facts and Figures)

(Photo: C.P.)

週五, 27 八月 2010





週三, 20 一月 2010

The Art of Huang Min-Chi

First Encounter

I first met Huang Min-Chi at a performance art festival held at a village near the old capital of Jogja (Yogyakarta), in Indonesia, in 2007. The theme of the festival was "Spiritual Renewal" as a special consideration to the setting, which was a village that had been badly hit by an earthquake a year earlier, and was still recovering from the structural damages, and the personal ones, as life had been lost. Artists were naturally suggested to make work relevant to the process of healing. To give a little context to this, I should say that typically, performance artists go to international festivals for reasons of both exposure and travel. We zip into a country, do a work that is often not directed at the environment we are in, and zip out, and plan for the next venue. This said, I did find that many artists presented work that dealt with local issues, as the village was small, and some artists even stayed in villager’s houses. Yet, we would all depart, and move on. Perhaps the spiritual aspect remained a theme for the festival, and did not go beyond that.

I saw Min-Chi in a health centre where some of us were staying, soon after I arrived. She did not command attention, as she was rather quiet and reserved, but one noticed her because of this subtle, undemanding nature, a contrast to exuberant personalities of many performers. She was tall and perhaps hard to place because of that, but I learned later she was an artist from Taiwan. She was quietly reading what I recognized as a bible. Again, this was a slight yet significant contrast to the setting of performance art. And, it placed her more authentically in my mind into the theme of that festival. In talking with her, I found she was a Christian, and not afraid to express this to a stranger.

As I said, many artists did do work relevant to the theme, though of course some had prepared pieces beforehand. Min-Chi presented a series of short pieces that as a whole, expressed friendliness to villagers, but also acknowledged the one-stop nature of attention to suffering and plight that visiting aid and, artists in this case offer. She simply performed a series of five minute "assistances" to villagers; she massaged a villager for five minutes, helped a farmer in the rice paddy for five minutes, and helped a woman cook in the kitchen for five minutes. While perhaps it may have seemed sharply critical of the passing through of artists to this village, it was rendered rather as a lesson and a reminder. I remembered her reading her bible. I thought of the patient teachings of Christ, who often used illustration and parallel examples to make a moral or spiritual point. I understood, then, and subsequently, that Min-Chi’s commitment was ongoing; she was committed to the spirit, and to God. I learned she had been to Indonesia before, and had a deep interest in Indonesian art. She would later complete graduate work with Indonesian art as its topic, doing first hand research in the field. At least in the west, such research is usually reserved for the doctorate thesis, but Min-Chi’s interest went beyond the completion of a paper; she strived for understanding, and sympathy.

Wood Carving, Prints, Life

Lewis_Mickey_wood_02_sNeedless to say, I kept in contact with her over time. I am from the U.S, and Taiwan was very far from me, but I grew to know her through letters and e mail. During that time, she began to develop a body of work in the medium of woodcarving and printmaking. While she had done both before, she decided to devote more attention now, and I saw a flowering of vision that incorporated her travels, her life, her love of nature, her spirituality, and of course, her artistic skill. Although there is a certain convention in woodcarving, her use of line was unique in each piece, as was her imagery. Some woodcuts she made prints from, while others, in growing number, remained woodcarvings. For me, it was a conceptual choice I saw; to show something, not dirtied by ink, suspended in a clean, pure state. As with a Mondrian painting, though not similar in image, her suspended process, between woodcut and printing, suggested the image itself was ongoing, as Mondrian’s images suggested they continued beyond the edges of the canvas. So, there was this subtle conceptual expression as an entry point. And then, there was the style and content.
As this work is presently ongoing, and a progressive body of work, I think it best to speak now in the present tense. I have moved to Taiwan, and am now able to see Min-Chi’s development close at hand, and even see her working. And of course knowing her has given me a deeper understanding and sympathy for what I am discovering is a singular and focused vision of the spiritual realm. While Min-Chi is a Christian, she has examined first hand other religions, and has appreciation for the diversity of cultures. Many elements are presented in her work, and she is concerned to unify them under a kind of spiritual umbrella.

Lewis_Mickey_wood_03_sThe first thing one notices of her work is the quality of line. She works for many many hours, cutting very small details as well as large deep spaces. The images vary from realist in parts to stylised in others, where plants, animals and herself often take on a dreamlike quality, or hints of spiritual darkness and light. She often depicts herself partly or completely nude. On many levels it is autobiographical. She is an artist’s model. So this is often how she and others see her. But while an artist may render her, and know her exterior form, she shows herself as a person, or spirit. And, as a spirit, her form can pass - and merge - with matter. One sees her, nude, with her body growing into the trunk of a tree, a sloth clinging to her as if to its mother. Her expression is one of tenderness, and sympathy. In the background are mountains, jungle, volcanoes. There is contrast even within nature. There are the gentle creatures she sees as her children, and her, their mother. And there is the earth, which can be violent, and impersonal to the individual. Indeed, on a subsequent visit to Indonesia in 2008, she climbed a volcano and almost perished in the effort. A more recent hike into the mountains in Taiwan for fifteen days left a fellow hiker injured, and again, she was reminded of her fragility at the hands of the earth. Yet, in her work she also embraces the earth. In one carving, her body in part turns to stone - she is in a tunnel, offering a flower to a mole. Looking for the point where fragility and strength of nature converge or are harmonized, which the mind naturally desires, I find I always settle on two things; her rendering of herself, and, the image of the cross. Her body and facial expressions vary. Sometimes she seems sad, imploring the viewer for something, or innocent, as the small creatures she places centrally and around the edges of her panels. But in my eyes, she always appears as a child. Her nudity is not sexual; it is pure, innocent, and natural. The crosses when they appear are roughly hewn, as if made from rough stone, or a tree has naturally grown into that form. It is here, between her body, and the rendering of the cross - where the bridge between a pagan world and the transcendental spirit of creation is given. It is a nature, and a connection to the world that this work strives for, a moral purity, and her physical form, as she renders it, aspires to a cleansing of spirit. Her own self challenges, as she puts herself often in harm’s way in travels and climbing in mountains, become a sort of tribulation, which, as so far she has survived, she shows to us the viewers, as this offering of herself to fate, and to the world, to be more completely made - a part of it.

Lewis_Mickey_wood_05Min-Chi’s art springs directly from her life. More than most art I have seen, she synthesizes her experiences slowly, and at some point, she will have an image that is a kind of vision, and she will draw it on a board. It will often change somewhat, but it seems to come to her complete, and all at once. And, the experience, whatever it is, will have been transformed into a language of her inner life. She works sometimes doing research in Taiwan National Park and Aboriginal areas, and her experiences there enter freely into her work. One image comes to mind. She was witness to the rather cruel killing of a goat in a village. I think, the image horrified her for some time, but she knew it would emerge as a carving beneath her hand. It is a small three panel piece, but the image is cut deep, and pushes beyond the edges of the boards, which seem too small to contain it. The first panel shows the butchering of the goat, and she has coloured the panel a sickening tone. The second panel depicts the suffering of the goat as it bleeds blood and white tears, which fall as a rain, and merge with the tears of her own eyes in the third panel. A "ritual" of a killing is hardly seen as anthropological - it is seen as cruelty to an innocent creature. I think she saw herself in this death, again, the offering, the tribulation. And of course, this is Christian iconography, the suffering of the cross, the violence of which is easily read in the three little panels. While man may be cruel, and even nature may be indifferent when it destroys human and creature life, there is an overall love and sympathy for all creatures, and, even destructive nature, the force that God represents as a power over all, a sympathy, and a forgiveness which I read in the childlike expression when Min-Chi renders her own face, the expressions of purity.

In an earlier carving, she rediscovered the "Pieta." But, instead of Mary holding the body of Christ her son, Min-Chi shows a kindly faced robed Christ, as if a risen Christ, holding Min-Chi’s own nude and starved body in much the same pose. He looks down at her with pity and love. Again, she has placed herself as the offering, for the viewer, for the world she so clearly loves and cares for, down to its smallest atom. I remember seeing the image for the first time, and being moved to tears, and not knowing precisely what it was I felt. I think over time, I gradually have come to understand why: it is because, I have found myself in the presence of a spiritual person, an artist who is honest, not a careerist, not an art maker as such, but a kind of healer, who envisions the world through a religious commitment and who does what she is compelled to do, by her belief, her faith, and by her gifts. Her art continues to grow. The works accumulate on a wall, like so many stained glass panels in a church, with stories that lead the eye from panel to panel, from confession to offering. I consider it an honour I can see this life unfold, and expect others will be honoured too, as the evolution of this art brings the world to it.

週三, 23 十二月 2009

孤老 , 並不可怕




週六, 19 十二月 2009

Grandma Li: Stay young by helping others

Grandma Li lives in the countryside of Taiwan, in a small town near Chiayi City called Dalin.

As I entered her house in the morning, her welcome really touched my heart. She is a very cheerful old lady, whose generosity and kindness reminds me alot of my own grandmother. Although she could only speak Taiwanese, which I do not understand, she tried all day to remember some Chinese to converse with me. Grandma Li offered the most beautiful and grateful smiles to Oliver and my camera as we photographed her.

Grandma Li spent her whole life taking care of her family. After her children left home, she took care of her sick husband until he died a few years ago.

Unlike alot of old people in Taiwan who are quite isolated and spend their days alone at home, Grandma Li decided to make her life more entertaining by participating in Hongdao Association activities.

Indeed, the whole day we spent with her was punctuated by her activities with the Hongdao Association.

In 2008 Grandma Li earned the Golden Award for her voluntary work at the Hongdao Association.

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週一, 30 十一月 2009

Rachel's Performance

Rachel’s family has a long and rich history of both art and activism in Yogyakarta and she has been with Performance Klub since it’s naissance. She has a fiery personality and a heartwarming concern for the local people and the future direction of Indonesia; so much so that she is often heavily self critical and unsatisfied when their projects have some shortcomings. As well as performing, she is also the Project coordinator and Festivals Secretary for Performance Klub and as such played an important role in the organisation of Perfurbance#3 festival.

Here we see her performance piece at the festival, and she talks us through it.

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