Taiwanese artist Yosifu Kacaw’s highly colorful, romantic paintings of his native Amis people will be on display in the “Love without Borders,” exhibition at Bat Yam’s Design Terminal (32 Ehud Kinamon St.) from June 14-July 2. The exhibition celebrates three decades of Israel-Taiwan friendship.
Currently based in Edinburgh, Kacaw is becoming an icon of the native Taiwanese legacy as a defender of the Amis community and other cultures native to the isaland. A little-known part of Taiwanese history has Chinese nationalists taking control of Taiwan at the end of the Second World War and forcing everyone to speak only Mandarin, in deference to their supposedly superior culture. The Chinese term fan, often used in reference to native people in Taiwan, means “barbarian.”
In a Kacaw painting titled Can’t Speak, a woman dressed in traditional Amis fashion is depicted with her eyes closed and a finger pressed against her lips.
Five years ago, Kacaw’s works appeared on a New York City subway car thanks to an initiative by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. US-based Taiwanese visual designer Meng Chih Chiang designed the overall layout of the subway car using Kacaw’s portraits of Hakka, Tao, and Minnan Taiwanese people. Kacaw’s works are often highly optimistic and cheerful, with laughing girls and men offering flowers and fish, yet some also contain sadness and pain.
Kacaw became an ambassador for his country
It was after Kacaw rose to relative success in the West where his heritage was noteworthy and celebrated that he was able to return to Taiwan from a position of strength and even be selected to market Taiwan to the outside world.
Last year, the artist was chosen to host a special National Geographic program, Secrets of the Ocean Tribes, about the Austronesian exodus 5,000 years ago from what is now Taiwan to Hawaii, Madagascar, and even New Zealand, the Taipei Times reported.
In an article for CommonWealth Magazine, writer Sunny Wu made the connection between the biblical Joseph, who saved his people from hunger, and the Taiwanese artist who, at age 41, dropped his Chinese name, and began using Yosifu Kacaw.
Taiwan is a unique land, where it is possible to openly worship a gay Taoist deity (Tu’er Shen) and celebrate the various minority cultures which Han culture came in contact with.
Kacaw’s impressive cultural and artistic efforts seem linked to a shift the Chinese Republic is going through. Time will tell how Israelis respond to this unique exhibition and to this cultural shift.