TAIWANfest 2019: Discovering similarities while celebrating unique cultural identity

Xin Hwang, the Child Poet.| Photos courtesy of Taiwan Fest.

TAIWANfest 2019 aims to highlight the vibrant culture and history of Taiwan this Labour Day weekend. The festival will run Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, marking their 30th anniversary in Vancouver.

Although the festival has always aimed to teach and show off the stories of Taiwan, since 2016 it has taken on a slightly new spin by creating the Dialog With Asia series. For this series, a different Asian country is chosen each year, and the events of the festival focus upon the cultural similarities between Taiwan and the chosen countries through multiple art forms. Past years included the Philippines and Hong Kong, with the current spotlight on Vietnam for the 2019 event.

“We are trying to find a relevance within the diversity among each other, and trying to explore similarities and connections, while hoping to tell a different story from what people have already heard,” explains Charlie Wu, managing director for the festival.

Cultural courage – New DNA

The overarching theme this year is ‘courage.’ To explore this theme, the festival will showcase the courageous struggles around topics such as female strength, Indigenous reconciliation and finding one’s identity. These stories will be told through an array of arts including music, film, fashion and food.

“We are trying to go beyond multiculturalism and are trying to do a bit more of interculturalism,” Wu explains.

The festival takes approximately a year and a half to organize due to the many collaborations and thought that is put into each performance and aspect.

This year will include a fashion exhibit called Taiwan New DNA, featuring traditional Indigenous Taiwanese designs. As with so many Indigenous populations worldwide, colonization has had devastating effects on loss of traditions and culture for Indigenous Taiwanese people. The fashion department at Shih Chien University has partnered with Indigenous elders from Taiwan’s Indigenous community to teach the students about traditional Indigenous techniques, designs and cultures. This led to a collection of unique fashion pieces ready to be shared and shown off.

“The motivation behind this project is to make the Indigenous art mainstream. The elders believe that the Indigenous techniques and fashion should not just be kept within the Indigenous community, it should be part of Taiwan’s new DNA,” Wu explains.

Taiwanese cooking – Meet the chefs

According to Wu, another important piece of identity for many cultures is their culinary dishes. To feature the best of Taiwan, the festival has included a Friendship Kitchen program, which allows participants the opportunity to take a cooking class from one of many highly experienced chefs while learning about the influences that define Taiwanese food. In attendance this year will be Chef Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng from Hanoi, Vietnam, Josie Chang from Taichung, Taiwan and Allie Huang from Tainan, Taiwan, among others.

“Be prepared to be curious and to learn about every single story, because you might find a new perspective. We encourage people to share their experiences and the things you learn,” Wu says enthusiastically.

TAIWANfest 2019 will continue to show Vancouver that although people should celebrate each culture’s unique identity, they are all a lot more similar than one may think.


For more information about the festival and to view the schedule, please visit www.taiwanfest.ca