26 October 2019
An educational morning of cultural exchange in the Guandu area was the activity for this semesters first USR project. The 2019 Fun Kuandu festival was the platform for an invaluable experiential learning experience for the group of diverse students. On Saturday October 26th, 22 Fifth Grade Students from the Beitou Primary School along with their parents and a few teachers were invited to watch the 5th annual Fun Kuandu Festival Parade along with junior and senior students of the IMCCI Program. The parade, one of the activities in the Fun Kuandu Festival, is an initiative coming out of a collaboration between Taipei National University of the Arts and the City Council. With an overarching purpose of unity and inclusion, the annual event is a way for the University to engage with its community through art.
Participating in the day’s activity served several purposes for both IMCCI Students and the Primary School students from Beitou alike. Not only was it an opportunity for the predominantly international university students to engage with the Guandu community and their culture but it also provided an opportunity for the students to engage with each other by sharing their cultural identities with the students from the elementary school as well as their parents. It was an informal forum for cultural exchange and exposure to difference.
This year’s Fun Kuandu Community Art Festival or Hot Festival featured over 40 local groups including schools, businesses and representatives of other community groupings. The one day festival is a part of the larger Guandu festival activity which includes over two months of artistic displays, performances and workshops held different departments in the school showcasing both students and international invited guests. The shared community identity could be demonstrated through the 3 main activities that make up the festival: a farmers market, the parade and the stage presentations. Large numbers of community members were present to participate in the sharing, utilizing artistic elements of music, dance and costumes to present their messages to their audience.
Saturday morning at 10 o’clock IMCCI students met the Beitou Primary School students in the Zhixing Park. After completing initial introductions, the group separated into two and went closer to the street that the parade would pass.
The day was an occasion for the newest cohort of IMCCI students to get a better understanding of the diverse culture, history and ideas that exists within their new community. It was a unique opportunity to engage with its history through dance, music, costumes and performance among other innovative activities. The vibrant colors and dynamic characters in the parade unique messages about traditional and contemporary culture and values.
For the cohort of mostly International students, the snapshot of local culture inspires new questions about the diversity at play in Taiwan and specifically the community that they now live.
As the history of the festival explains, Fun Kuandu Festival celebrates the diversity in the terrain of the Guandu area. Which is known for its rich ecological diversity comprising of natural wetlands, migratory birds, fishing ports and docks due to its location, which is the merging point of the Xindian, Keelung and Dahan rivers. Themes presented in the participant’s displays were characterizations of the divergent environmental ecosystems that make up the community. Costumes worn by some of the participating schools and other community groups represented these diversities and so did their body movement in performances. While other presentations focused on ethnic cultural identities, spiritual beliefs and pop culture.
This immersive experience allowed for a greater understanding of concepts being theoretically visited in the classroom relating to Taiwanese identity, history, and belief systems. Group presentation and representations included traditional symbols of health, prosperity and honor among other beliefs interwoven with the identities of other Asian ethnicities Cultures, Latin American Music and even international organizations such as the Rotary Club.
As it relates to the exchange shared between the primary school students and the IMCCI cohort, their presence during this immersive experience allowed for a level of comparison and alternative interpretation to be done. The Primary School students had the chance to practice speaking English and learn about the geographical locations of the countries which student’s in the IMCCI come from. They also had the additional benefit of a platform to share their understanding, and ideas of what the parade demonstrated, which provided the IMCCI students with a local and alternative perspective of what they witnessed.
After spending some time engaging with the presentations, the groups moved from spectators to participants and joined in the parade as new members of the Guandu Community. The short walk/ march to the culminating point of the parade was a moment to reflect on what had been witnessed in the community.
At the Shui’an Park Plaza the parade ends in a shared open space that is transformed for the dual purposes of a market space and a stage area. The market had display booths set up by community organizations and representatives from the school. Displays included promotional material and engaging activities, musical performances and the opportunity to try out different instruments. In the stage live performances were done for the remainder of the afternoon by some of the groups that were in the parade, presentations ranged from dramatizations to dance and musical pieces.
– written by Melody Wagner