TAIWANfest 2022: a panel discussion will explore how a local cultural festival has become an incubator of solutions
When Charlie Wu became the General Manager of TAIWANfest in 2001, he had a simple goal: he wanted to share the culture of his native country with Canadians.
It was a noble and worthwhile goal. After all, Taiwan is a vibrant democracy with thriving independent music, dance, film, visual arts, literature, fashion, and other art forms.
Taiwan also later became the first country in East Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.
Wu therefore had a lot to present to Vancouverites.
Over the years, however, Wu pondered what he could do to not only improve people’s perception of Taiwan, but also to improve Canada.
Wu, now CEO of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, seized on the idea of making TAIWANfest a platform for cultures to get to know each other and forge new relationships.
“If everyone does their thing, what does it bring to Canada?” Wu asked in a recent Zoom chat with the Right.
His approach to outreach to different communities is reflected in the festival’s annual Dialogues With Asia series. It began in 2016 by highlighting the ties and similarities between Taiwan and Hong Kong, including their shared love of freedom.
Since then, the TAIWANfest Asia Dialogues have brought fame to Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and South Korea in the following years. TAIWANfest promotes understanding by showcasing initiatives by artists whose roots can be traced back to these countries, as well as drawing attention to the historical and current ties between them and Taiwan.
Sometimes these links are through their indigenous populations. Like Canada, Taiwan has many different First Nations. And they share a common lineage with the First Nations peoples of other Asian countries.
The 2022 festival, which runs from Saturday (September 3) to Monday (September 5), is built around the theme “Stories of Independence”. This time, TAIWANfest focuses on the ties between Taiwan and Indonesia and Malaysia.
“TAIWANfest has become a platform for cultures to get to know each other and find connections,” Wu said. “I want to make sure this is something that will benefit Canada in the long run.”
Wu shared his experiences overseeing TAIWANfest in a book published last year, titled Taiwan: the world’s response (a direct translation of the title into Chinese).
The title reflects Wu’s desire for people to see Taiwan as a model for addressing major concerns including racism and the challenge of creating a harmonious society with a diverse population. And that’s evident at this year’s festival in various “Hope Talks” meant to inspire discussion and awareness of the constructive role the Taiwanese people play in the world.
“We try to become this ‘solutions incubator’ through arts and culture,” Wu said.