1. The Wufong Project

    by
    By Malinda Schultz (Founder and Organizer)

     

    It all started in 2010 in a small township in Hualien County. After watching the documentary “Born Into Brothels,” I was inspired to give children cameras. They would have the opportunity to document their lives and help them understand the beauty in front of them in their own communities. But where to start? A friend of mine was volunteering at a Learning Center for underprivileged children in Fongtian Township, Hualien County. I mentioned to him about my idea and he introduced me to the founder of the The Five Way House Learning Center. She was thrilled to do the project. And so it began.

    “to raise money for their education.”

    The main objection was to raise money and awareness for the Five Way House Learning Center while at the same time educating the children through means of creativity and art. The children took photos of their everyday lives and a good friend of mine framed them to sell. They where hand made bamboo frames made by Tim Ho, a native to Hualien. He dedicated his time and money to help the children have a better education. With his efforts and creativity combined with my teachings we created a wonderful dipiction of the children’s lives framed in beautiful bamboo. At the end of the project we had a great final event where we gathered with musicians, fire dancers, volunteers, the children and their art works to raise money for their education. Although it was a small event, it was a great success and everyone involved wanted to do it again.

    “Their voices gave me chills up my spine and their dedication to their heritage was apparent and amazing.”

    Here we are, a year later doing a similar project in Chingchuan Village (Wufong) in the mountains of Hsinchu County. When I first came to Chingchuan (Wufong), it was during an annual expat festival called “Peace Fest.” I fell in love with the village and the people. What captured my soul was the singing of the Chingshuan Children’s Choir. Their voices gave me chills up my spine and their dedication to their heritage was apparent and amazing. The color of their traditional clothing and their dances put my soul at ease so I wanted to learn more.

    “Poverty combined with an isolated location leaves the children with little opportunity to succeed.”

    I learned that Chingchuan Village is inhabited by a small population of the Atayal Tribe, some of the oldest indiginous peoples of Taiwan. They have been through decades of repression from various political sects and forced into poverty. Poverty combined with an isolated location leaves the children with little oppotunity to succeed. They have minimal education and when it is time for high school many of them have trouble getting there, for it is a 45 minute drive down the mountain to Jhundong. Parents are absent with jobs in another city leaving the children with their grandparents. Most grandparents are too old and can’t take proper care of the children which in many cases leads to drugs and alcohol use. Many of the children grow up to find themselves working in the lowest paying jobs such as contruction, farming or forestry. I also learned that the Children’s Choir I saw last year, was no longer singing together because they all had to go down the mountain to attend high school or get a job to help support their families. This was sad to me because it seems that they will never be able to keep their heritage alive with so many cracks in the foundation.

    My first thought was to help them raise money for their school, so this could provide local opportinites for the children in their village and help keep their traditional singing and dancing alive. But, as it seems, fate had already planned for something else.

    “What am I doing here?”

     

    I met up with a man named Father Barry. He is a Jesuit Priest from San Diego, California, who has lived there for over 35 years. Father Barry has been a great leader in their community helping most of the children stay clear of drugs, alcohol and bad behaviors. He supplies the children with safe and secure environment while helping them keep their indiginous culture alive. I came to him with my plan to raise money and awareness for the Chingchuan school while at the same time educating the children through means of creativity and art . He kindly said to me “You can teach them photography and art but we don’t need your help.” My jaw dropped and my dream to help was crushed. As I was thinking inside my head “What am I doing here?” Father Barry says softly, “You know, there is something we have been trying to get off the ground for about 4 years. Maybe you can help us with that? We want to rennovate an old building into the village Community Center. This center will provide a place for the Atayal Tribe to gather, learn arts and sell their crafts. A place to call their own without any political or religous ties.” “That’s more like it!” I thought. We then agreed that The Wufong Project was going to raise money and awareness for the Chingchuan Community Center.
    “It was a great success and most importantly the children had fun.”

    I put out a post on Facebook to anybody that was intersted in helping this cause. An amazing amount of people were interested and then I had a team of foreigners to support the project. With the help of Facebook and a man named Sean Kaiteri I learned that all types of people wanted to help. Sean helped me gather famous photographers, artists, writers, documentary specialists and many more. With such a great team behind me I split the project into three workshops. The first workshop was the most important. The Photo Workshop. I delegated the teaching of this workshop to a man who studies architecture and photogtaphy, Jeff Evans, a native to Montana, USA. Jeff taught 28 Atayal children basic photography skills while the other 15 volunteers reinforced the art in smaller groups. It was a great success and most importantly the children had fun. The children were given a single use camera and two weeks to complete the 27 exposures. They were instructed to take photos of their lives, village and beauty around them.
    At the end of each workhop the children would always ask us “When are you coming back?”

    The second workshop was The Art Workshop. There was also a great number of children and volunteers. I delegated The Art Workshop to three amazing professional Artists. Kelly Harding, from South Africa, taught the children Abstract Art. Felicia Rodrigues, from Canada, taught the children Still Life Sketching. Roma Mehta, from India, gathered the children for Group Atayal Tribal Art on four large canvas’s. The children loved The Art Workshop so much that they stayed all afternoon to paint. The third and final workshop was the Photobook Workshop. The children recieved their photos in 4×6 form and put them into a hand made photobook for people to see and for them to keep. This is a great way for the children to remember the project and most importantly the way they view their lives in the village.

    After the workshops were completed and the children were full of art and creativity, we were able to select the best photos and art works to be framed and auctioned off at the Pavilion of Aroma of Flowers (Aboriginal Cultural and Creative Arts Venue) in Taipei. All proceeds will go to the building of the Chingchuan Community Center. There will be a two week exhibition of the children’s art works, project timeline and Chingchuan Village History from November 5th, 2011 to November 19th, 2011. At the end of the exhibition is when the Final Event will take place. This event is on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. During this time there will be live performances by the current Chingchuan Children’s Choir, Chingchuan Break Dancing Team, Live viewing of a short documentary on the project, by Verity Mackintosh and Tobie Openshaw, raffling off prizes, a Silent Auction and a Live Auction. All proceeds will go towards the building of the Community Center. Please join us as we make a positive difference in this world, one child at a time. For further information please check out the official website. www.thewufongproject.wordpress.com

     

    Exhibition Dates

    Pavilion of Aroma of Flowers (Aboriginal Cultural and Creative Arts Venue) in Taipei www.taiwanpaf.org
    When: Saturday, November 5th, 2011 – Saturday, November 19th, 2011
    Time: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

    Final Event

    Pavilion of Aroma of Flowers (Aboriginal Cultural and Creative Arts Venue) in Taipei www.taiwanpaf.org
    When: Saturday, November 19th, 2011
    Time: 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

    Publicity

    China Post

    Taipei Times

    TITV News (Taiwan Indigenous Television)

  2. Tobie Openshaw – “I find that Taiwanese people are very evenly divided on the subject.”

    by

    The Conversation:

    Tobie Openshaw is a South African-born photographer who has been working in video and photography for over 18 years.   We discussed his photography and documentary work on betelnut girls, betelnut girls’ place in Taiwanese culture, the issue of exploitation vs. empowerment, and Tobie’s perspective on betelnut girls as urban art. View Tobie Openshaw’s betelnut beauty photo gallery here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tobie_openshaw/

    Questions:

    When did betel nut girls start emerging?[audio:http://www.thetaiwanchannel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/TobieOpenshaw0091.mp3|titles=TobieOpenshaw0091]

    What are some of the issues surrounding betel nut girls?[audio:http://www.thetaiwanchannel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/TobieOpenshaw0092.mp3|titles=TobieOpenshaw0092]

    Do you feel that Taiwanese have accepted it is not necessarily exploitation and may be empowerment?[audio:http://www.thetaiwanchannel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/TobieOpenshaw0093.mp3|titles=TobieOpenshaw0093]

    Vocabulary: documentary tobacco rush stimulant arecoline aboriginal hospitality hut container transfer suppressed entrenched eradicated cash-crop unprepossessing clientele stall naked prostitution exploited feminist coerced harassed boundaries empowered strata turning tricks social class spokesperson broad realm stigmatize ancillary velcro

    Please add your question or comments.

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