Wed, Oct 16, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Green dreams are made of this

A local retiree’s waste material samba costumes can be seen in Saturday’s Dream Parade, which this year will focus on wildlife and environmental protection in partnership with the Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Yu Mei-ying works on a recycled samba costume at Dream Community.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

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.

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.


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.

“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.

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