Chong An, Taitung, Taiwan (2012)
We started our collaboration in Chong An at the community center, a humble little place. This is the original structure of the Ah Mei people. The Village of Chong An is right next to the Ocean.
About fifty families are part of the community in Chong An, but only thirty or forty people live here now. Some people have gone elsewhere to find jobs. There are sixteen students in the school from first grade to fourth grade, no more.
Chong An doesn’t have the poverty of Africa, it has a different kind of poverty, more like the poverty in North Philadelphia. The people are sustained by government subsidies but then there is no future for them. Many people don’t think about surviving after the age of twenty-five and they sell drugs or go to the army to fight wars because there aren’t other opportunities.
Even so, there are many beautiful and pure parts of life in Chong An. Their tools are cut from bamboo. They hunt and forage in the forest for food. Cooking bowls are made from a large folded leaf. The people in Chong An cook fish by putting water inside the bowl, heating rocks in the fire, and then by putting the rocks in the water to boil. You can make soup, or fish, and it’s so fresh and healthy.
There is one family in Chong An where the father was a laborer in Saudi Arabia. He saved money and built a house with an Arabic style. We are going to do some work there. We’ll start in the public, in the community center, and then move to the private, so when you walk down the street you’ll come across different energy points and hopefully the art will expand.
The people in Chong An were so welcoming. Lily Yeh got her identity card in Taitung. That was Lily Yeh’s new birthday, becoming a citizen in Taitung.
After doing a slideshow presentation, Lily Yeh did a workshop with the teachers, adults and the children in Chong An, inspiring all of them. We all created together. Everyone made beautiful drawings.
We collected the drawings and then we looked and we talked. The community asks, responds, and tells their stories. One child did a picture of himself with his hands hidden behind his back. He explained that was because he had a surprise present for his grandmother. It made the older people very happy.
Another child in the community made a drawing with three people dancing—his grandpa, his grandma, and him. This image will go up on the wall.