Island Kaleidoscope / Taiwan / Chih-Hua Huang

Short info of Artist

Chih-Hua Huang is a transdisciplinary artist with a background in architecture.

After graduating from M.A. Scenography, Hogeschool Voor de Kunsten Utrecht in 2020, she currently works as an independent artist and a researcher in Taiwan. She has a particular interest in literature, spatial narratives, and speculative images, working on exploring how people understand space and its power relations.




Mostly when it comes to the word “island”, I get an immediate image of its shape, and it always gives a view from a distance.” or “island”, the first thing that comes to my mind is “Water”.

I am thinking about sharing stories which people can relate to as well, in order to get closer to “the island” and therefore I got the first story of the island as a time capsule, and next, in order to let people know more about me, I shared my personal relation with the island in the second and third story.

NEVERLAND

The first word is inspired by the recent workshop we made for children. Here I will share the story of Peter Pan and how I relate the fiction to kids’ imagination. This fictional island is created by the author J.M Barrie, in his work “Peter Pan or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up”. Thanks to Disney, most people know it is the place where Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, and some imaginary creatures live. I haven’t read the book version, so I will just mention the film. It is a place where kids won’t age, some say it represents a place of eternal childhood and escapism. Since we already somehow know about the story, I will just give a  quick review about it.

The story starts from the Darling family living in London, Wendy, Michael and John who one day meets the magical boy Peter Pan. He teaches them how to fly and brings them to Neverland. Here, they spend some good time with the Lost Boys on the island until they feel a bit homesick and plan to leave. Unfortunately they were caught by their enemy captain hook. In the end, Peter defeats Hook and leads the pirate ship with some tinkerbell’s fairy dust, and they safely fly back home to London.

What I think is interesting to mention is the background setup, the concept of time. Since the lost boys living on this island cease to grow, it seems to perverse the purest spirits and ideas in this very moment of the imaginary world. We can also view it from another perspective, it somehow shows our fear of losing time and the fact that people will die, as an inevitable part of a human being.

So back to what I’ve just mentioned before about the children’s workshop, “Forestry Island”. It is a four day camp for children to create their own island and conceive the stories that happen around. What I see these days is the potential of the young kids, in the age around 8-12 years old, they have a fearless mind against the world which is mainly settled by the grown-ups, just like the magical characters, Peter Pan and the lost boys, fighting with the only adult, captain Hook in the world of Neverland.

So I see Neverland as an island where we can temporarily examine or recall our childhood creativity. The last time I watched this film was when I was a kid, and at the moment I am mentioning about the story now, I’m going to reach 30. It is unthinkable that the characters are still living young, and will last forever in the fictional world, and we will never stop aging. The island of Neverland becomes a land where we can never return.

GUISHAN

The second word “Guishan” comes from my background, as a person born and raised in Yilan, Guishan Island is not merely a symbol of the county but also does have some hidden meanings for us, and here I would like to share my personal relationship with it. 

For the listeners who are not from Taiwan, I will explain it more, “Guishan” in Mandarin literally means turtle mountain, and the name “Turtle Mountain Island”(龜山島) comes from the turtle-like shape of the island. It represents the image of the city, Yilan, located in the Northeastern part of Taiwan. In fact, I’ve only been to the Gishan mountain once when I was really young, and it’s a shame that I barely remember what I actually did or experienced on the island. So in order to share more today, I did a little research for the information. According to the internet, there were people dwelling on the island, mainly fishermen,  until 1977 people were relocated to the main island of Taiwan, and Guishan island at the time became the military base. Then in the year 2000, the island was officially opened to tourists as a maritime ecological park, as the place where we mostly know now. I also give some geographical facts, there is one of the active volcanoes in Taiwan, and its surrounding waters support a rich ecosystem, which has become a place for whale watching, as one of major attractions.

Here I will share an interesting fable of the island. It is the love story between the General Turtle and the princess Kavalan. The Kavalan, namely “people living in the plain”, in Chinese 噶瑪蘭族 are indigenous people of Taiwan. The story starts from once upon a time, there was a dragon king’s daughter, the princess Kavalan, who fell in love with the General Turtle. Their relationship was forbidden by the dragon king, so then the princess was grounded in the palace and the General was expelled from the land forever. They can only see each other from a distance of water. From time to time she misses the General so much and starts to cry. It became the well-known seasonal rain of Yilan.

The story depicts the beautiful story between the land and the island. For me, it represents not only the image of the geographical landscape but also about an interesting connection between the people living in Yilan and how they imagine the Island of Guishan. Even though most people had never lived on the island, while some never actually landed on the place, people still have a strong connection to the image of the turtle shape to our land.

We are not so surprised about it, an island seems to be a good start for adventurous stories to take place. A lot of fiction writers like to settle their story backgrounds in an isolated place, and somehow mysterious things just happen out of nowhere.

I am also the kind of person who enjoys this exciting experience of the journey, and so while I was traveling I also explored many places out of my original plan. Here in this part, I am going to share the story of my adventure in 2016 in an island called Bilu Island, located west of the Mawlamyine city in Myanmar. To have an idea of the location, Mawlamyine city is around 300 kilometers south east of Yangon, the largest city of Myanmar.

Photo from https://mindofahitchhiker.com/

ADVENTURE

Before making a decision to visit the island, my initial plan is to visit Mawlamyine, which used to be a place where the author George Orwell worked as a police officer during the British colonial period. This was my first location and the second day in Myanmar. It took me a 14 hours overnight train to arrive in this city, which I was really looking forward to. The city itself is not on the top of the tourist list, as it has less attractions. I knew it before but soon I still found nothing to explore around just on the second day of my stay. One morning, I was checking the map with the reception desk and found that there is an island quite close to my place. I pointed to the island on the map and asked, “Is it possible for me to get to this place?”. She answered “Sure, you can just be at the Port 6, 8 in the morning, buy a ticket, and you will be picked up to the island!”

So the next day, I followed her guide and I successfully got on the little wooden boat with the locals. At that moment, I can strongly feel the people’s gaze, looking at me in a curious way. Apparently most people travel between the lands to trade goods, so they rarely see someone like me(as a foreigner) travel with them. 

I arrived at the island and got off the boat. There seemed to be not much public transportation and I had absolutely no idea where to go. A group of people raised a high voice from a distance, “Taxi! Taxi!” Next, they came up to me to talk with a paper and pen as we can hardly communicate in any language. Finally, we made a deal to encircle the island twice for a certain amount of pay.

“The taxi” was a motorcycle. I sat back on his motorcycle and we started our journey. We visited several places in the villages, mostly meeting people making crafts at their home. I then realized the island is the place where people mainly manufacture goods and distribute to the tourist places inland to sell. There were home based factories of stone-made pencil and writing boards, rubber bands, clothes, wooden carving crafts etc. It’s interesting to see the making process of the products, and sharing time with the family , even though we can hardly communicate with each other. If necessary, I use google translate to talk with them.

Few years later, when I recall my trip, it was a bit surreal because I didn’t know anything about it before my visit, and then kept being surprised. It was the only island I visited in this country and with this experience, it brought me more courage to explore more places out of my to-visit-list in the following days. If I had not by chance read the map, and been curious about this place, I would never have been to Bilu Island and experienced these interesting stories

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCAST

SPOTIFY
APPLE PODCAST
GOOGLE PODCAST
ANCHOR

Thank you so much!

%d bloggers like this: