Tue, Apr 03, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Arts used to focus on death penalty

PONDER THIS:A harpist involved in one of the events said the use of photos and music meant people could approach the issue of capital punishment in a soft way

Staff writer, with CNA

A Japanese photographer and harpists from France and Taiwan are encouraging Taiwanese to reconsider their thoughts on issues related to the death penalty through a photography exhibition and a concert, organizers said yesterday.

The events began in Taipei yesterday with a two-day display of 16 photographs taken by US-based photographer Toshi Kazama, featuring pictures of death-row inmates in the US and Taiwan, execution sites, a prisoner’s last meal and execution devices, such as the electric chair.

The collaboration marks the first time that the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty has organized events incorporating music and photographs to raise public awareness on the issue, said Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡), the executive director of the Taipei-based alliance.

Holding the events this month is significant because Taiwan has executed inmates in the spring of the previous two years, Lin said.

Taiwan ended a four-year moratorium on executions in 2010, executing four prisoners that year and another five in March last year, drawing criticism from the EU and human rights advocates.

Speaking at a news conference, Kazama said he wanted to encourage people to think about a wide range of aspects surrounding the practice of capital punishment.

“Most people just focus on whether it is right or wrong to impose the death penalty,” said the 54-year-old, who began taking photos of death-row inmates and execution sites in 1996.

“However, they don’t know the reality [surrounding the death penalty],” Kazama said, adding that the emotional impact on execution officials is often ignored.

By viewing the black-and-white photographs, Kazama said he hoped visitors to the exhibition could “see beyond just the image.”

French harpist Isabelle Perrin and her Taiwanese counterpart Shannon Chieh (解瑄) were scheduled to perform at the National Theater Concert Hall in Taipei last night, organizers said.

In a video shown at the news conference, Chieh said she hoped the performance with Perrin — who is from a country where the death penalty has been abolished — will offer people an opportunity to approach the issue in a “soft way.”

Echoing Chieh’s remarks was Fleur Willson, head of the British Trade and Cultural Office’s Political and Economic Section, who was also present at the news conference.

An arts performance is an easier way to get the message across to people, she said.

Kazama’s photographs will also go on display in Greater Kaohsiung from Thursday through April 11.

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