In the square surrounded by Japanese department stores selling mainly Western-style fittings in the Xinyi District (信義) of Taipei City, dancers, models, ambassadors, politicians and students gathered to celebrate the start of a two-day exhibition about African culture and fashion yesterday.
The “2012 Africa Fashion Show and Culture Exhibition” seeks to “teach Taiwanese more about Africa. I am not saying they do not already know much, but I do know people here who know a lot about US and European fashion and culture, [but not African],” Gambian ambassador Alhaji Ebrima Jarjou said.
“Walking in the streets, you can see that,” he added.
Taiwanese tend to get their information about Africa from CNN or the BBC, but “I have my doubts about the authenticity of the information [provided by those news organizations] and how well they represent Africa,” Jarjou said, adding that he hoped the government of Taiwan would continue with its efforts to “bring Taiwan to Africa” and “take Africa to Taiwan.”
“I believe that day is not far away,” he said.
The event was held jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Taipei’s Department of Cultural Affairs to celebrate Africa Day, observed every year on May 25, the day on which the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established in 1963.
Although renamed the African Union in 2001, 32 newly independent African countries signed the founding charter of the OAU to promote solidarity among African states.
Foreign Minister Timothy Yang (楊進添) encouraged the public to visit the exhibition where more than 500 artifacts, including wood carvings, bronze sculptures, face masks, paintings and musical instruments are on display, providing visitors with a broad introduction to the cultures of Africa.
“The exhibition shows how energetic and creative African society is,” Yang said.
The ministry also hopes the exhibition will draw people’s attention to Africa-related issues, where Gambia, Swaziland, Burkina Faso, and Sao Tome and Principe have long been the country’s staunch allies.
Department commissioner Liu Wei-gong (劉維公) said “Taiwan could learn a lot from Africa about creativity in design.”
“We [Taipei] are now bidding for the title of 2016 world design capital, while Cape Town has been named World Design Capital for 2014,” Liu said.