Fri, Jul 01, 2016 - Page 13 News List

Channeling your inner child

The Yilan International Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival is not just about water games and dance performances, it’s also for children — and adults — to play outdoors and be immersed in nature

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

Illustrations by children’s book author, Lai Meng-chia.

Photo courtesy of Lai Meng-chia

Lai Meng-chia (賴孟佳) remembers a time in her childhood when she used to play by the rivers and rice terraces in Yilan County (宜蘭). So when the children’s book author was asked to design the visuals for this year’s Yilan International Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival (宜蘭國際童玩藝術節), she naturally chose to depict children running barefoot through sprawling rice fields.

The annual festival which began in 1996 kicks off tomorrow by the Dongshan River Water Park (冬山河親水公園) in the county’s Wuchieh Township, with water games, exhibitions and musical and dance performances by entertainers from around the world. The event, which attracts both the young and the young-at-heart, will last until Aug. 14.

This year’s theme is the white egret bird (白鷺鳥). Lai says she chose it as the main motif in her visuals because they are commonly seen flying around Yilan’s rice fields. It was also the theme of the inaugural festival 20 years ago which she attended as a child.

“We rarely see children playing outdoors [these days],” Lai tells the Taipei Times. “Learning and exploring in nature stirs the imagination more than staring at computer screens.”

A graduate of the Royal College of Art in London, Lai lived and worked in the UK for 13 years before returning to her hometown of Yilan’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪) where her parents used to run a kindergarten.

Growing up around dozens of other children, Lai recalls the simple, unfiltered way in which they viewed the world, something which translates into her illustrations of cheerful, smiling characters and animals. Utilizing simple contours and shapes, her drawings encourage readers of all ages to channel their inner child.


What: Yilan International Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival (宜蘭國際童玩藝術節)

When:Opens tomorrow. Until Aug. 14. 9am to 6pm daily

Where: Dongshan River Water Park (冬山河親水公園), 2 Chinghe Rd Sec 2, Wuchieh Township, Yilan County (宜蘭縣五結鄉親河路二段2號)

Admission: Tickets are NT$350 for adults and NT$200 for children on weekends. NT$250 for adults and NT$100 for children on weekdays

On the net:

“I think every person has a pair of ‘pure’ eyes in them no matter what their backgrounds and age are,” Lai says.

Lai has been keeping visual diaries since 2004 where she scribbles scenes from everyday life. Her completed artworks are inspired by these observations.

“I play the casting director and set designer to start with and when I start to create, I become the actors in the artwork,” she adds.

In addition to writing and illustrating children’s books, Lai’s repertoire includes being one of the 100 artists in 2013 to design a graphic on a giant Easter egg as a part of the Big Egg Hunt, a yearly Easter egg hunt in London that doubles as a charity fundraising event. Her egg, which revealed squirrels and pigeons hiding in trees, was inspired by the woods near her friend’s cottage in Suffolk.

As for tomorrow’s opening day in Yilan, Lai hopes that the children (and adults) who attend will not only enjoy the performances and activities, but also appreciate Yilan’s abundant natural beauty the way she did as a child.

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