The Strangers in Formosa
Hundreds of years ago, Taiwan was known to the Portuguese sailors as "Formosa" (meaning beautiful island in Portuguese).
For centuries, Taiwan has received those foreign to this piece of land from immigrated Chinese People to Dutch traders, from British missionaries to Japanese soldiers, from Dutch doctors who served aboard the ships to expatriate workers in this new century, including migrant mothers… Generations of foreigners of different nationalities visited Formosa for different reasons. They also left their footprints and legacy on this island, enriching its social landscape and experiences. Some even have become stories and legends.
For the key vision of the Taiwan Pavilion this year, we chose to use images of "silly barbarians shouldering pillars of temples" quite commonly seen in temples in central and southern Taiwan. Soldiers and ship traders working for the Dutch East India Company once cruising proudly across the Taiwan Strait hundreds of years ago are now lowered in a joking manner to barbarians at temples of folk religion in Taiwan carrying pillars. Whether they were westerners on ships that conquered Taiwan and Asia by force or antagonists that lost their battles in folk religions, they all have become interesting legends when placed in the perspective of history.
From War to God, From Money to Love
War, religion, money, and love can more or less account for visits paid by strangers to the island of Formosa.
War: In every war from fighting over the rule of fort Zeelandia between the Dutch and a Ming-loyal Zheng family in the 17th century, to the operations led by French Admiral Courbet involving his Far East Squadron to attack Keelung in the 19th century, as well as the confrontation between the United States and Japan during World War II in the 20th century, foreigners brought from different countries either triumphed or perished here.
Religion: In addition to their missionary work, Western priests in Christian, Catholic churches or of all denominations have helped establish schools, health care network, and even a variety of interesting buildings on the island. In the aboriginal tribes on the east coast of Taiwan, one can still see churches full of imagination. High schools, universities, and hospitals run by churches can also be found everywhere.
Money: As the largest ethnic group of Taiwanese Han Chinese, Min Nan (Southern Fujian) people were called "sangley," or businessmen, in the 17th and 18th centuries overseas. Doing business and trading has been in the blood of those living in Taiwan. Involvement of foreigners, including traders from Japan, the Dutch East India Company, tea merchants from Scotland, and many more, has jointly accomplished a prosperous golden age of "Made in Taiwan."
Love: Love binds foreigners and strangers with this island. It encourages Taiwanese people to pursue transnational marriage. Such theme is reflected in a Taiwanese folk song depicting love affairs between a Dutch doctor and a local Taiwanese woman in the old days as well as in the marriage featuring migrant brides in the new century. We simply hope that love will bring about happiness.
Six Comics Artists in Search for Strangers
In 2015, six artists from Taiwan take part in Angoulême International Comics Festival. With different perspectives and stories, they paint what they see as strangers in Formosa.
With science fiction comics, both Chang Shen and Ah Tui present people's curiosity toward a foreign land and the love for homeland.
Lung-Chieh Li and Iron re-enact historical war scenes because legends and religion were roads strangers took.
Angoulême's first timer Kiya Chang, with her dedicated tea merchant, Todd, from Scotland, reproduces the beautiful views of Taiwan from a hundred years ago.
Sean Chuang delivers Taiwanese customs and emotions through a French son-in-law, who attends a Chinese New Year's eve dinner in the countryside.
Welcome to Formosa. At some point in our lives, we are all strangers foreign to somewhere.