A small fishing village in Yunlin County’s Taishi Township (台西) has been transformed into a world-renowned international art village, thanks to the dedication of hundreds of volunteers from 20 countries who have helped color the community with symbolic stories and emblems of their cultures over the past six years.
From an array of brightly colored national flowers to a vivid portrait of the world’s most distinguished publications, the walls of 55 households in Haikou Village (海口) — totaling 1,300m in length — are painted with a variety of designs reflecting stories and cultural concepts which hold significance for the more than 250 Taiwanese and international volunteers involved in the project.
Six years ago, the fishing village was not much different from many other similar villages until the Taishi Art Association launched an international working camp, which invited young volunteers to paint in the community in 2007.
In July 2007, the first batch of these volunteers, comprising just nine young people from South Korea and Japan, as well as one Taiwanese, arrived in the village with their paintbrushes — and a sense of mission.
The group of young volunteers, aged about 25, painted a “comical clam” on the wall that stood next to the village’s Chen-hai Temple, planting a seed of creativity in the community.
The following year, more overseas artists traveled to Taiwan to take part in the project — organized under the theme of “international flower alley” — to turn what was originally a pale and time-blasted wall into a giant canvas bedecked with the national flowers of Ireland (the shamrock), Scotland (the thistle), Wales (the daffodil), England (the rose), South Korea (the Hibiscus syriacus, or Rose of Sharon) and Japan (the cherry blossom).
In 2009, working under the theme “four seasons without borders,” scenes in a mural depicted all four seasons in Japan, an autumn scene in South Korea and a winter scene in Australia. A work of art inspired by the famous novelette of French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupry, The Little Prince, was also incorporated into the colorful wall.
In 2010, the association introduced another theme entitled “alley of international weddings,” which saw more murals created centered around a Korean fairy tale, The Fairy and the Woodcutter, a Spanish folktale called The Vain Little Mouse and a Japanese folklore legend known as Kaguyahime, in conjunction with a traditional wedding ceremony of the Tao (Yami) tribe.
Last year, the association invited a number of Taiwanese elementary-school students and international volunteers to create a work of art influenced by the concept of “happy reading,” which aimed to highlight the importance of reading and painting.
For the whole of this month, 51 volunteer painters from the US, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan have been adding their creative ideas to the community in a bid to encourage more people to visit the village with an emphasis on art and cultural fusion.