Artistic Direction

Becoming Me

Becoming Me

Speaking of the past and words spoken in the past

The concept of civilization marks a significant milestone in human progress. We are working diligently to protect what has been preserved, while also witnessing efforts to reclaim what was once abandoned. Cultural traditions that remain through the erosion of time and those that are lost through the rise and fall of empires, which of these truly define our identities today? And which ones influence our visions of tomorrow? Does the power that civilization has bestowed upon humanity encompass essential tools like humility and introspection, used to cleanse human nature of greed and mitigate the harm caused by arrogance and ignorance?

When we reflect on the narratives of the Era of Exploration, we see Western empires, such as Spain, raising the banner of civilization as they engaged in colonial acts across the globe. These actions have a lasting impact on Asia today. The consequences of colonial rule continue to prompt many nations to work towards healing wounds, uncovering truths, and seeking paths to reconciliation. 

The Spanish Empire once reshaped the destinies of countries such as the Netherlands, Mexico, and the Philippines, and even extended its influence to Taiwan briefly. Wherever one treads, traces are inevitably left behind. While Taiwan and the Philippines both belong to the Austronesian language family, the development of their languages has been significantly shaped by the influence of different colonial regimes. What and who is Spanish? What and who are the Taiwanese? 

In Spain, the concept of national identity varies widely between regions, shaped by diverse historical backgrounds and the distinct cultural and ethnic characteristics of their inhabitants. The Basque Country stands out with its ancient language and heritage, which is older than much of Europe. This region historically includes parts of France, where Basque communities maintain a strong connection with their Spanish counterparts. In Taiwan, we can draw similarities between the Min-nan and the Hakka, who can trace their roots across Asia. These two peoples make up the majority of the Taiwanese population, yet today their languages are gradually overshadowed by Mandarin. 

In a broader context, Spain and Taiwan both have been significantly changed under authoritarian regimes: one by Francisco Franco and the other by Chiang Kai-Shek. Artists like Picasso and Chen Cheng-po have reflected on the harrowing effects of war, emphasizing the lasting wounds inflicted on our shared history.

In Canada, the path of colonization led to English and French becoming official languages. Today, there are earnest efforts to rediscover the original languages of this land. Moreover, the value of multiculturalism has raised the necessity of reevaluating past assimilation concepts. The reclamation of lost languages is becoming an essential journey for Canadians to explore their individual and collective cultural identity.

In our present day, are we continuing to perpetuate past mistakes, or are we on a quest to rediscover what we have lost?

What does heritage entail? Is it merely a continuous narration of past words?

What defines progress? Is it the critical reflection on the words spoken in the past?

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TAIWANfest Toronto is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered here, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples of this land while we engage in meaningful conversations of culture and reconciliation.

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