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TAIWANfest 2023 – Self-Portraits of Formosa

September 3 – 5 2023 | šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square (formerly known as the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza)

When the Dutch East India Company (VOC) left Taiwan in 1662, 38 years of Dutch Colonization forever changed the island and its people. Four hundred years later, Taiwanese people still have mixed emotions when it comes to the identity of Taiwan. Yes, the Dutch are long gone, but where are the Taiwanese going?

Europeans started the Era of Exploration hoping to navigate the unknowns of the world.  The water passages connected Europe, America, and Asia, and trade generated interest within each other. Today, the movement of people and the pace of global transactions makes VOC seem miniature; is it a blessing or disaster in the waiting? Have we ever learned anything from the Era of Exploration?

Pope Francis came to Canada on July 25, 2022 to make an apology to the survivors of the Residential School system. The same year, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands also made an apology for the role the Dutch government played in the 250 years of Slavery and Slave Trade.  What significance do these apologies hold to the Taiwanese people, whose culture and history have been shaped by various colonial powers? For those who came to Turtle Island from places that were once colonized, what does the decolonization movement in Canada mean to them?

When we see the collections in museums today, do we know whose stories are being told?  When we see the precious paintings in the art galleries, do we ask ourselves if all the voices are represented?  While we are being asked to appreciate them, were there stories intentionally omitted or horrendous behaviors purposely glorified? Could what we see as part of our cultures be rooted from the colonizers’ ideals? Could what we are passing down to future generations also be carrying harmful connotations? 

2023 TAIWANfest continues to explore the stories that were once taken away from us and challenge the perspectives that tried to shape our identities. The journey to reconnect with our past with the world begins with the Dutch.

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