When Yu Mei-ying (余美英) was tasked with making a samba costume with chicken elements, she headed to the local fruit stand instead of the craft store. She selected pink and white Styrofoam liners for the wings, and tore up the red and yellow fruit nettings for the crests.
“It took a while to collect all the materials for 13 costumes,” she says.
The retired insurance worker with no art background enthusiastically explains the materials used for the rest of the piece. The wings are supported by a used event banner and stitched together with paper bag handles, adorned with plastic bottle caps and Mardi Gras beads. The bottom piece is structured with a waistband made from drink cartons.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
These costumes, as well as Yu’s other creations made from garbage bags, instant coffee packages, political campaign fans and broken umbrellas fit perfectly with the wildlife conservation and environmental protection theme at Saturday’s Dream Parade (夢想嘉年華).
The annual bash, put on by the Dream Community (夢想社區), will feature its usual samba drummers and dancers, stilt walkers, fire breathers, puppets, zany floats and lots of feathers, beads and glitter — as well as an emphasis on Taiwan’s endangered animals, such as the leopard cat, black bear, pangolin and humpback dolphin.
Partnering with the Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association (台灣黑熊保育協會), this year’s extravaganza is a two-day affair that will include an animal conservation fair as well as a variety of performances on both Saturday and Sunday.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
Yu first visited the Dream Community in April 2017 as a Neihu Community College volunteer because the artist community needed help making props for one of their artist events. Less than a month into retirement, Yu thought it would be beneficial to explore her passion in arts and crafts instead of “sitting at home all day.”
Dream Community staff noticed her enthusiasm, and invited her to stop by once a week to help repair the samba costumes for their annual parade. She ended up going there every day. Just a month into the endeavor, Dream Community founder Gordon Tsai (蔡聰明) informed Yu that a samba costume maker would be visiting the community soon, and asked if she wanted to learn from him.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
“I would have to pay someone to teach me elsewhere, so I thought, why not?” Yu says.
Feeling ambitious, Yu wanted to make a costume before the maker arrived so he could appraise her skills.
“I’ve been looking at these costumes for a month. I thought I could put together something quickly,” she says confidently.
One day, someone brought in drink boxes for the artists and staff to enjoy. Recalling the MRT card holders she once made out of the cartons, Yu asked everyone to give her the boxes after they were done. Using red-and-white plastic bags as decoration, her first “recycled” samba costume was born.
Making a recycled costume is different from a traditional one. Glue guns, for example, cannot be used because they will melt the Styrofoam. Yu’s creations have to be adjustable without Velcro, and secure enough that they don’t fall apart when the wearer dances and prances during the parade. The cleanliness of the materials also matters — apple fruit meshes are generally less sticky and easier to sanitize than banana ones.
Yu asks if it’s okay that she is wearing her “rooster comb” on her head when posing for a photo with her costumes. As long as you feel comfortable, the photographer replies.
“Hey, if I was embarrassed by my creations, then nobody else would dare wear them,” she quips.
Those interested in making their own recycled costume can stop by the Dream Community this week from 10am to 6pm and speak to Yu. There will be material on site, but participants are encouraged to bring their own.
The rest of the Dream Community’s working space is right now buzzing with activity. International volunteers are helping the community’s resident artists, who have constructed impressive floats, costumes and props relating to this year’s theme.
The centerpiece of this year’s parade is a giant Formosan black bear pirate sitting on a monster fish float that has been repurposed from previous years. The bear is a bamboo and paper mache piece made by the community’s resident Balinese artists.
“I didn’t want to go with the traditional cartoon Formosan black bear,” parade art director Bridget Bell says, noting that instead of being cute and fluffy, black bears are actually dangerous if encountered in the wild. “It’s a creature that has been through so much. A pirate is a good representation of that. He’s missing an arm and a leg — it’s quite common for them to be trapped in the wild and lose a limb or two. It’s a reflection of the reality of the life of a black bear.”
Instead of a parrot, the pirate black bear has a chicken on its shoulder — inspired by the news story earlier this year where a Formosan black bear cub became attached to a chicken it was supposed to eat during preparations to release it back into the wild. There will also be a chicken float, which is why Yu was asked to make chicken-inspired designs.
In addition to all sorts of endangered endemic animals, a smaller, three-faced black bear creation also embodies the spirit of this year’s parade.
“The faces represent love, wisdom and strength,” Bell says. “That’s three characteristics we need to save the environment and help the animals.”
Tobie Openshaw is confident that Taiwan’s government has good reasons for not including him in the Triple Stimulus Voucher Program, which launched at the beginning of this month. That’s just as well, because it seems unlikely he’ll ever discover the logic by which it was decided that he, along with other foreign residents not currently married to Taiwan citizens, shouldn’t receive the vouchers. “We’ve stood side-by-side with our Taiwanese friends through the COVID-19 crisis, complying with government measures, cheering its success and sharing that news with the world at large. If the stimulus coupons are meant to be spent to keep
When the BBC approached Caroline Chia (查慧中) in July 2018, and asked her to make arrangements so a documentary-making team could gather footage showing how global warming may be increasing typhoon intensity, she delivered everything that was in her power to provide. Chia got permission for the BBC crew to shoot inside the Central Emergency Operation Center, film the army’s disaster-relief efforts and follow mayors around as they supervised the cleaning up. “In total, it was about one week of work for my cousin — who’s my business partner — and I,” recalls Chia, who was born in Taipei but
John Thomson was a pioneering photographer in the 19th century and one of the first to journey to East Asia. In 1871, while in China he met Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell, a fellow Scotsman who was returning to Taiwan, where he served as a Presbyterian missionary. Maxwell’s description of Taiwan intrigued Thomson, and the photographer decided to accompany Maxwell to the island then known to Westerners as Formosa. Disembarking at Takow (today’s Kaohsiung) on April 2, 1871, Thomson brought with him the best photography equipment of his time, along with thousands of glass plates — an estimated 200kg of equipment. The
Every time Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信) saw a liver cancer patient in his ward, it reminded him of his father, who died from the disease at the age of 49. Historically, Taiwanese suffered from an unusually high prevalence of liver ailments as well as cancer, and Chen was troubled by the number of terminal patients. After decades of research, Chen and other experts found that Taiwan had the highest percentage of hepatitis B carriers in the world, which often developed into cirrhosis and cancer. In the early 1980s, he served as a key member of the Hepatitis Prevention Council (肝炎防治委員會), which