Thu, Feb 21, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Art festival to celebrate democracy activist

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Artist Chang Wen-hsuan, left, and Yeh Chu-lan, the widow of democracy campaigner Deng Nan-jung, hold a news conference at the Nylon Cheng Memorial Museum in Taipei yesterday to launch the Art Freedom Era festival, which runs until mid-June.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

To mark the 30th anniversary of the death of democracy activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), the Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation yesterday launched the first Art Freedom Era festival in collaboration with civic groups and artists.

The festival, which runs through mid-June, is to feature more than 40 concerts, theater performances, talks and exhibitions in Taipei, Taoyuan and Taichung, as well as in Chiayi and Yilan counties.

The art and cultural events are to celebrate freedom, explore Deng’s legacy and imagine a better future for Taiwan, Deng’s widow, Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), told a news conference at the Nylon Cheng Memorial Museum in Taipei.

“How do we continue to be brave against all the challenges that await us? How do we show our courage to defend our homeland against China’s expansionistic ambition? How do we express our hope for a new and free nation in the face of social division?” she asked.

Yeh said that she hopes the festival would spark more discussion on those issues and bring new momentum to the nation’s civil society.

“People from Deng’s and my generation share a sense of urgency and are anxious about whether our vision for a free, democratic and independent nation could be realized in our lifetime,” Yeh said.

Today, many people do not understand why Deng decided to self-immolate in 1989 to protest against government restrictions on freedom of speech, “but if you were to go back to that time, you would understand,” Yeh said.

When Deng died 30 years ago, there was no freedom of speech and no presidential elections, she said.

Moreover, people who advocated for Taiwanese independence would be charged with subversion, she added.

“Now freedom is as natural as the air we breathe and we do not feel restricted,” Yeh said.

However, to maintain the freedom and democracy people now enjoy, and to build an independent nation, there are still many challenges, she said.

“By exploring a wide range of issues through artistic expressions, I hope people from different backgrounds can work together to maintain and advance our freedom and democracy,” Yeh said, adding that this is a task that requires everyone’s participation.

The art and cultural events would offer a great opportunity for the younger generation to understand transitional justice, Cosmopolitan Culture Action Taichung president Yang Tsung-li (楊宗澧) said, adding that most young people have a limited knowledge about the subject.

“Peace and reconciliation is only possible when the truth about what happened is told,” he said.

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